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Advisory Editors : h. l. beales, Reader in Economic 
History, University of London : w. e. Williams, 
Director, the Army Bureau of Current Affairs ; 
Secretary, ihe British Institute of Adult Education. 



Owing to war-time production difficulties it is impossible to 
maintain large stocks of our publications, and the titles avail- 
able change so rapidly that the issuing of a catalogue would be 
of little value as a guide to intending purchasers. Readers 
wishing to be informed of books now in print will be -sent a list on 
receipt of a penny stamp or a stamped and addressed envelope. 

Howard Coster. 


Born 1909. Graduate and Doctor of London University. Vowed 
not to publish a book before he was thirty, and did not find this as 
difficult to keep as it might seem. Thesis for Ph.D. on the verse and 
critical work of the poet W. B. Yeats not yet published. Career 
covers schoolmastering (which he soon gave up), lecturing on litera- 
ture, drama and appreciation of the film in the Midlands and South- 
west, and fifteen years of production with amateurs of a wide raKge 
of plays. Interest in cinema began at the age of five with film serials 
and slapstick, and was matured when he became a student of John 
Griersqn, the documentary producer, some twenty years later. Hopes 
that this book will be the first of many on the cinema. Is working 
now for the Government in the distribution of substandard war films. 

37417 Niles Blvd SV /I 510-494-141 1 

Fremont. CA 94536 

Scanned from the collections of 
Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum 

Coordinated by the 
Media History Digital Library 

Funded by a donation from 
Jeff Joseph 






First Published 1944 


(who taught me to go to the pictures) 



(who taught me to look at them) 


(who taught me TO discuss them) 



This short book does not set out to be any of the following : 

A history of the cinema. 

A history of the careers of directors and actors. 
A complete guide to montage. 

A tour of the studios and an account of film-producing. 
An introduction to film-making, scenario-writing, or how 
to make money out of pictures. 

But none the less, if you are interested in any of these things 
you should read it because it attempts to deal with the following : 

Why we go to the pictures and what we get for the money. 

Why films are like they are. 

Why they influence the way we live. 

Why and how they get themselves censored. 

Why the film can be called a new art form. 

Why the film can bp called a new industrial racket. 

What they have done with the film in Russia. 

Why America has cornered pictures. 
, Why Britain is catching up in world cinema. 

Why Britain is the source of great documentary. 
. What the film has achieved in the past forty years. 

Where do we and the film go from here ? 


No excuse is made for the heavy quotation in this book : it is 
part of its purpose to let as large a number of film-makers and 
critics as possible raise their own dust. But the debt must 
gladly be acknowledged to all writers and publishers whose 
works have been most freely drawn on in the text. 

The following publishers have generously granted permission 
for quotation to be made from books published by them : 
Faber & Faber Ltd. {Documentary by Paul Rotha, Film by R. 

Arnheim and Film Music by Kurt London). 
George Newnes Ltd..(F//m Technique by* V. I. Pudovkin). 
Jonathan Cape Ltd. {Film till Now by Paul Rotha and Garbo and 

the Night Watchmen, edited by Alistair Cooke). 
Laurence & Wishart Ltd. {U.S.S.R. speaks for Itself: Culture and 

Allen & Unwin Ltd. {History of the Film by Bardeehe and 

Harrap & Co. Ltd. {Stardust in Hollywood by Jan and Cora 

Permission has also been given to quote from the following 
periodicals : 

Documentary News Letter (Film Centre). 
Sight and Sound (British Film Institute). 
Kinematograph Weekly (Kinematograph Publications Ltd.). 

This book also contains one hundred and ninety-two stills. 
These too are all acknowledged to their individual production 
units; even those from U.F.A. of Germany, temporarily under 
new management. But particular acknowledgment should be 
paid to the Soviet Film Agency for their courtesy in lending 
many of the stills from the later Russian films, to Mr. Fair, 
of the Central Film Library, for help in collecting stills from 
war-time documentary, and, above, all, to Mr. Ernest Lindgren, 
who has helped me unsparingly to draw on the magnificent 
resources of the collection of stills at the British Film Institute. 

Finally, I would like to acknowledge here the generous and 
untiring help of Miss Nora Hubball and Miss Margaret Lee, 
who have assisted me, in the little spare time left to them these 
days, in the preparation of this book for the press. 


GufDE to Reviewers and Readers 


Tributes in Passing . . 
Introduction :~ Survey for a Study 
Part One : The Film as a New Art Form 

1. Introduction : The Peculiarities of the Fine Arts 

Generally . 

2. The peculiarities of the Film in Particular 

3. Essentials of Film Art : First Principles 

4. Essentials of Film Art : Further Principles — Shot 
# Sequence ; Editing . . . 

5. Essentials of Film Art : Sound . 

6. Essentials of Film Art : Acting . 

7. The Film and Realism . . 

8. The Film and Realism : Documentary 

9. Documentary and Fiction .... 

Interval : An Open Questionnaire from the Author 
and Reader to the Cinema-going Public 

Part Two : Influence of the Film on Present-day 
Society ....... 

1 . The Place of Art in the Experience of Living . 

2. What the Audience Gets' . 

3. " It's the larst vord in pitchers " 

4. The War of the Critics . 

5. What the Public Wants : Symposium from all Sides 

6. The Effect of the Cinema on Adult and Juvenile 

7. The Social Achievement of the Feature Film 

8. No Controversy, Please : No Fires 

9. Economics . . . . 



10. The Cinema in Pre-Nazi France . 

1 1 . The Cinema in Nazi Germany 

12. The Cinema in the U.S.S.R. 

13. The Instructional Film .... 

14. The Minority Theatre. 

15. Where do we go from here ? Summary for Recom 

mendations ...... 

Additional . 

1 . Why not start a Film Society ? 

2. What does that Word Mean ? 

3. Book List ....... 

The National Film Library {by Ernest Lindgren) 
Some Directors and their Films 
Index : 

1. Titles of Films 

2. General Index ...... 

PAG i •: 







I. The Powers of the Movie Camera < . . 1-18 

II. The Dramatic Use of the Drawn Film . 19-22 

III. The Stylised Film . . . . 23-24 

IV. The German Silent Cinema . . . 25-30 
V. The Odessa Steps Sequence from Potemkin 31-45 

VI. Stills from the Russian Cinema up to 1937 46-51 

VII. Stills from the Films of some British, 
American, German and French Directors, 

largely from Drama and Comedy Pictures 52-96 

VIII. Recent Russian Films . . . .97-105 

IX. Stills from the Films of some American 
Directors of Pictures covering Important 

Social and Psychological Themes ♦. . 106-135 

X. Documentary . . , . . 136-183 

XL British Documentary Features . . . 184-192 


The film ... is a cultural bridge between the nations ; it pro- 
motes understanding among them because it assists them to 
learn to know each other.— Josef Goebbels. 

Kinemas are as essential to the progress of the war effort as 
any munitions you can possibly make. They are so essential 
that you cannot do without them. — Trade Paper. 

That was the ending I wanted for Blackmail, but I had to 
change it for commercial reasons. — Alfred Hitchcock. 

It is estimated that the annual turnover on the exhibition 
side is in the neighbourhood of £50,000,000 and that the in- 
dustry has entered a stage of stability and profit which is likely 
to benefit from the war. — British Trade Journal. 

Business men in the Midlands are in the boom. Mr. Arthur 
Rank, head of Odeon Theatres, has in recent months acquired 
eight Paramount Theatres in Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham 
and London at a price running into millions. — Ernest Betts in 
the Sunday Express. 

People had plenty of money to spend. There might never be 
such an opportune time to raise prices. — Trade Paper. 

It is the more dangerous to muddle along in an industry in 
which the difference between showmanship and racketeering is 
often slight and may pass ill the confusion unnoticed. — F. D. 
Klengender and Stuart Legg. 

Cinema needs continued repression of controversy in order to 
stave off disaster. — Lord Tyrrell, Chairman of the British 
Board of Film Censors. 

The cinema in the hands of the Soviet power represents a 
great and priceless force. — Joseph Stalin. 

What sort of films do the public wish to see ? . . . Type does 
not matter. . . . Take any subject under the sun, treat it right, 
and the public will like it. — Exhibitor in Trade Journal. 

The cinema, like the detective story, makes it possible to 
experience without danger all the excitement,, passion and 
desirousness which must be repressed in a humanitarian ordering 
of life.— C. G. Jung. 

The film is the most vigorous art form today. — Constant 



God made the fine arts but man made the film. The twentieth 
century, following obediently along the lines of thought and 
scientific invention prescribed for it by the nineteenth, perfected 
three machines for human expression — the radio, the cheap 
press and the cinema. It has also developed cheap education, 
and in two generations produced a widespread literate public 
conditioned to receive whatever is spoken to it by these three 
time-saving, if not time-serving, devices. There are still large 
areas on the map inhabited by people who cannot read, but 
most can see and hear, so that the film and radio, carefully 
adapted to differing grades of audience, can reach out and 
capture the attention of the cultured European or American 
through the same means by which they can capture that of the 
African tribesman. 

But this advance in the technique of expression has not been 
matched by an equal advance in education. ' To teach a man 
to read is to give him a skill to use for his good, but this is not 
the same thing as to teach him to distinguish through his reading 
what is good for him. 

All through this study of the astonishing powers of the cinema 
and the effect it is having on the progress of our society, it will 
be impossible to forget this fact. To see films is a habit of 
most of the industrialised populations of the world : where 
there are cities, towns or large villages, there there will be 
cinemas, or agents searching for sites on which to build them. 
The only difference in penetration from that set up by the radio 
and cheap press is that the cinema stops short at the point where 
the potential audience falls below a few thousands a week, 
whereas the radio and newsprint go on to the farthest limit 
of the cottage and cabin in the isolated places of the world. 

The film is an art, and, moreover, a means of expression after 
the heart of the twentieth century. Public library statistics 
show that the reading of novels, although popular, does not 
touch more than a fraction of the people who read the press or 
visit the pictures. The tendencies of our time cannot be fully 


12 FILM 

measured according to the civilised standards of H. G. Wells 
or John dos Passos, when the people of whom they write would 
in many instances be unable to understand their works. The 
standards of our civilisation are the mixed standards of the 
privileged who are able to acquire culture, and the recognition 
of values which culture implies, and the standards of the cultur- 
ally under-privileged, who, after a brief acquaintance with the 
tools of thought — namely reading, writing and arithmetic — 
apply them to reading the cheaper Sunday press and the enjoy- 
ment of the cheaper thrills of the cinema. The proper study of 
mankind must, however, include the assessment of these debased 
standards as well as those more finely acquired. 

The film is the art most loved by the twentieth-century people, 
and it requires an industry to produce it. Films are made in 
factories, which are none the less factories although they are 
called studios. Men without knowledge of or interest in art 
have gained attractive incomes by joining these industries, 
either by lending their capital to promote the production and 
exhibition of films or by learning the necessary techniques 
which go to making them. Whilst the standards of the few 
still insist that in the film human expression has found another 
medium to lift the heart and invigorate the mind, the standards 
of the culturally under-privileged lead them to realise only that 
they have found another means to make them laugh and cry. 

The film, without initial tradition or privilege, has fought its 
way from the primitive trickeries of the eighteen-nineties to 
the prestige of The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, Deserter, 
Target for Tonight and In which we Serve. It has developed 
from a flickering sideshow to a clear and beautiful picture, 
accompanied by clear and beautiful sound. Whilst not yet in 
full control of colour,' it can produce the roost astonishing 
effects of black and white, grey and mist, such as lie in the 
memory after seeing The Long Voyage Home, The Blue Light, 
Quai des Brumes and Winterset. It can delight the most 
fastidious taste, whilst the millions pay in their weekly tribute. 
It has seen the successive rise of distinguished though short- 
lived schools of cinema, which collectively have made an artistic 
tradition for the film where none had previously existed, the 
work of Griffith, the silent German cinema, the silent Russian 
cinema, the better American talkie, the French romantic-realist 
film and the British documentary. All this, and much more, 


has enriched the art in thirty years, a period shorter than that 
in which the Greek drama achieved its height from more august 
beginnings. It has produced its own comedy through Chaplin, 
Clair and the Marx brothers. Its premieres are as eagerly 
booked as the first nights at the theatres, and the Sunday papers 
accord it a weekly column along with the three-thousand-year- 
old drama. 

Before the war the great film-producing countries were the 
great powers— America, France, Great Britain and Russia. The 
first three produced for entertainment only, the last for enter- 
tainment and instruction. The Russian Communist Party, 
assuming full cultural as well as political and economic power 
after the Revolution, recognised in the film a medium for 
political education. Few people had looked for this in the 
cinema before. In 1920 the film was still regarded with sus- 
picion by the culturally privileged as a vulgar form of entertain- 
ment, in spite of the signs of a growing prestige forecast by 
D. W. Griffith's films Birth of a Nation and Intolerance made in 
America at the beginning of the First World War. Russia used 
her film for propaganda, a technique learnt later first by the 
Germans and more recently by the British. The film, which 
has its uses for the purpose of education, has a more deadly or 
more enlivening use for the purpose of political persuasion. 
This had always been known as true for the printed word, but 
it was only a world in political revolution which saw this wider 
usefulness of the radio and the film. 

On the side of entertainment, America won the European 
markets during the 1914-18 war, and the crippled British industry 
had only just managed to keep afloat with the aid of American 
capital when the Second World War threatened her again. 
Nevertheless, she produces each year a number of distinguishe4 
films, though the chief contribution of the British cinema to 
world film art is still documentary. 

This misnamed and sometimes misguided branch of the film 
covers what might be called the higher journalistic activities of 
cinema. News is reported by means of the newsreel (the first 
news-recordings on film date from the eighteen-nineties), and 
the newsreel, however impoverished in material, has established 
itself as an essential part of any cinema programme. Interest 
films, as they are called, helped in the old days to fill up a 
programme for which the feature did not provide full running 

14 FILM 

time, and so was born the mouse emerging from the mountain 
of the feature industry. The mouse in turn produced the 
travelogue or drew rough-and-ready cartoons, until Disney 
took this part of the fun into the front-line trade. 

But from the much-despised short came the most significant 
event in popular adult education — the documentary film. Neg- 
lected by the trade as highbrow, it grew out of the need of a. 
few young men, belonging to the culturally privileged class, who 
knew that the only place where they could find a fully satisfying 
medium to embody their creative criticism of society was in 
the motion-picture camera. Up to the time of the war this 
type of film was known only to those whose interests had 
developed along similar lines ; but audiences, which before the 
war were limited to colleges, clubs, and film societies, have 
now developed into the wider cinema public itself, with 
the British Government's adoption of documentary for its own 
purposes and its sponsorship of war-education films in the 
cinemas and through travelling film units which are extending 
the cinema habit to the smallest villages. This sponsorship 
has taught both the trade and the audiences it serves the power 
of this higher journalism of the screen to interest people who 
could never be induced to read serious articles on the subjects 
treated visually in the documentary film. 

As a result of all this activity books have been written and 
periodicals have been founded to discuss the problems which 
the overwhelming influence of the cinema is having on our 
changing society. These books deal with the economic aspect 
of the cinema, the problems of the star system and its influence 
on the dress and manners of successive younger generations, 
the difficulties of film supply and the international exchange of 
films, the dominance of Hollywood over less quick-moving 
European audiences, and the absence of social conscience in so 
many of the people who produce, direct and act in films in every 
country. Social reformers deplore the allurements of the 
picture house, and bishops abuse the morals of the warmer 
films which the red tape of the trade censorship allows slyly to 
slip through its mesh. Altogether there is continual free publicity 
for the film, which it lavishly supplements through its own 
press agents and those of its stars. Assuming its public to 
belong to the lowest strata of literacy, the trade sells its films 
by means of an ever-widening system of glowing adjectives 


which still manage to ring true to the ears most accustomed to 
them. Garnished by continual overstatements, films of varying 
mediocrity are regularly sold to a public which" cannot escape 
from the routine of cinema-going. The theatre has declined in 
the provinces as an active competitor, and only the public-house 
trade and to a lesser degree the variety world and dance floor 
offer a substantial alternative to the greater British public. 

It is therefore astonishing that good films are ever made at 
all. It is even more astonishing that they are made so fre- 
quently, and that, when they are made, they are often box- 
office successes. The high lights of publicity sell them by means 
of the same technique as they sell the mediocrities in the market 
of the cinema-going queue. 

It is the purpose of this book to attempt as fair an assessment 
as possible of the artistic achievements and possibilities of 
cinema in the best sense of the term art, and at the same time 
to recognise the mental and emotional directives set up in these 
vast audiences by the traditions of the lower grades of film. It 
is foolish to study an art whose greater achievements have 
occupied so small a fraction of screen-time without any reference 
to the effect set up in the imaginative experience of audiences 
who seldom see these greater achievements, and only judge 
them when they do by the standards of admiration they have 
learned from the continual contemplation of the mediocre. 
This study is therefore divided into two parts. In the first, 
examination is made of the film as a new art form judged from 
the severer standards of criticism which the older arts have 
evolved. In the second, an attempt is made to describe the 
influence of the film as a whole on present-day society. 

In the course of these two investigations the problems raised 
in this introductory survey will be reintroduced for more careful 
treatment, and it will become apparent that it is impossible to 
write such a book as this without becoming indebted, both con- 
sciously and unconsciously, to previous writers on the film. 
No one writing such a study could or should escape the influence 
of Paul Rotha, Rudolph Arnheim, John Grierson, Pudovkin 
and some others, all of whom have helped to found the serious 
criticism of the cinema, and have begun a critical tradition by 
recognising the film as one of the fine arts and establishing its 
first principles. 

P a r t O n e 


Everyone, in however debased a form, has continual contact 
during his life with the variety of experience known as art. This 
experience ranges from the craft level found in the design and 
execution of the practical things of life — utility articles, furniture 
and clothes — to the more imaginative, because less tangible, 
level required for the enjoyment of music, painting, sculpture 
and literature. In the fine arts human creativeness is no longer 
concerned with producing an object which will be required for 
use anyhow, whether it be beautiful or not, but with providing a 
stimulus for the satisfaction of human emotion in its various 
levels of manifestation. The majority of human beings, since 
they are culturally under-privileged, are satisfied if their emotions 
are roused easily and volcanically by the more simple emotional 
reflexes — by dance music, by the easily identified references of 
cinema-organ sentimentalities, by the picture with a story or 
easily assimilated moral, and by the simple violent plots of the 
cheap magazine or commercial novel. 

The culturally privileged demand a more complicated satis- 
faction. They require, because they are educated to assimilate 
it, the aesthetic aspect of the arts, the highly complex form behind 
the Shakespearean play and the Shakespearean verse, the beauty 
of composition in the Greek vase or statue, the carefully balanced 
aesthetic and psychological values of Renaissance portraiture, 
and the investigations into the associative values of language in 
T. S. Eliot and James Joyce. 

The old and established arts, whether they be crafts or fine 
arts, have evolved in the course of time a tradition which governs 
their various forms and the legitimate and illegitimate- use of 
their various mediums — words, paint and canvas, wood and 
stone, the variety of musical sounds. The long and elaborate 
history of these arts is the story of the young artists in revolt 
against the tradition established by their elders and predecessors, 



from which rebellion further tradition is developed to add to 
that already practised. 

The success of an artist depends largely on his facility in the 
medium he has chosen. This is partly native to him, partly 
acquired by practice and experiment. It also depends largely 
on whether he has sufficient valuable human experience in him 
which demands expression, and so forces him to undertake the 
labour of practice and experiment yi his medium in order that 
he can convey this experience satisfactorily to his fellows. To 
use another language of criticism, he must be not only inspired 
but also in technique a master of his art. 

Tradition, which has much to be said against it when it over- 
whelms the new vitality of a growing artist, has this advantage, 
that it gives dignity to the creator and guidance in his first 
attempts to pursue his art. So long as he is not subjugated by 
it, he may largely succeed through its example. 

To the person who can discern the work of a good artist, a 
great part of the satisfaction is derived from " the sense of 
difficulty overcome." Enterprising human beings like to set 
themselves problems and achieve the solution with the minimum 
of time and effort: the less enterprising enjoy watching the 
others. This is as true of a crowd at a football match as of a 
professor enjoying a poem by Horace. The difference lies only 
in the quality of human skill and emotion involved. 

All works of art, therefore, are successful because of, not in 
spite of, the limitations their form imposes on them. A painter 
must achieve vitality and depth through the colour and com- 
position of his picture, which is none the less two-dimensional 
and. static ; the composer must communicate a sense of complex 
human experience, without the assistance of words or pictures, 
by the encompassed dynamic of sound ; the poet must solve an 
enigma of experience within the sparse framework of a sonnet. 
A dramatist must achieve his purpose on the bare boards of a 
stage within the time an audience will pay to sit his drama out. 
The film director must achieve his aim by means of a succession 
of flat though mobile pictures photographed on celluloid and 
joined together in a long sequence. In all these arts the sense 
of triumph lies not merely in the humanity of the subject or the 
story, but also in the skill with which the artist moves freely 
within his self-imposed limits. 



The film reached its maturity in about the same time as it 
takes some human beings, that is, twenty years. The motion 
picture was a sideshow for fairs in 1900, but by 1920, despite the 
upheaval caused by the 1914 War, the habit of cinema-going 
had spread sufficiently for all cities and most small towns to 
have their continually growing number of cinemas. Some six 
years earlier D. W. Griffith had greatly added to the prestige 
of the film by making Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. These 
films, nearly as long as Gone with the Wind, could not be seen 
by a modern audience without embarrassment because of the 
crudity of the emotions, situations and the acting. But just 
as the miracle plays of the fourteenth century are too crude 
for most audiences to tolerate today, these films, like the early 
plays, showed certain potentialities which had not previously 
been associated with this rather disreputable and crude form of 

Cinema, being mute, had to make its appeal visually. There 
was as yet no place for subtlety, for innuendo, for discussion 
before action. Emotions had to be obvious, and the situations 
in which the characters were involved had to be clear-cut and 
usually violent. The acting, based on mime and gesture, had 
to convey, by the exaggerated use of the face and body, the 
reaction of the characters to their situations. Small wonder^ 
therefore, that educated people left the cinema to their maid- 
servants, as the country squire still" does today. 

Almost from the start, however, the cinema has meant good 
money for those who learnt how to exploit it. From the 
beginnings of its history to the present day, the initial cost of 
film making has been heavy. Outlay on plant as well as on 
executive, technical and acting staff runs high for a feature film, 
but none the less the returns are good, since once the film is 
completed these returns are locked up in a few thousand feet 
of negative. A film which is capable of an infinite number of 
reproductions in positive prints at low cost can then be shown 
by a comparatively small staff to a succession of large audiences 
wherever the commercial set-up on the exhibitors' side of the 
trade allows. The money pours back, and the most inflated 
salaries in the whole of industry are received at the production 
end of the film trade. 

In its earlier days, therefore, the cinema was almost entirely 



in the hands of men whose sense of financial gain controlled 
their discussions at the conference table. Neglected by that 
section of society which could have brought other values to 
bear in the making of films, the earlier American cinema stormed 
the public leisure of two continents and aimed at the lower 
levels of quick emotional satisfaction by a succession of thou- 
sands of films dealing with violence, feud, murder, veiled 
adultery and virtue rewarded with a girl for prize. Exhibitions 
of wealth and vulgarity were to be had for less than a shilling, 
and substitutes for sexual indulgence could be obtained by an 
hour spent in watching the bathing belles and sirens of the 
silent screen. 

This spread of easy satisfaction through the debased practice 
of the arts was equally true elsewhere — in literature and music, 
aided by the cheap press, gramophone and radio. 

In spite of all this, the film, because it has a unique appeal 
to the quick-thinking technical mind of our industrialised 
twentieth-century society, absorbed into its factories men and 
women who became technicians, executives and actors, and who 
were not satisfied with the crass emotionalism of the normal 
film. These people, artists by inclination though not always 
aware of it, have come gradually to influence the standards of 
commercial production. They have gained sufficient prestige as 
directors and actors to influence the watchful financial powers. 
Intelligent experiment and a more finely balanced emotion have 
informed many films made in recent years. To encourage this 
there has been the precedent of the distinction won by the his- 
torical and ideological film in the U.S.S.R., the artistic success 
of the German silent cinema, and the more recent achievement 
of pre-war French and post-war British feature film. 

For the film, in spite of its origin in the studio-factory, is as 
capable as poetry and letters of achieving beauty and distinction ; 
there is no aspect of human emotion which the sound film 
cannot present, and its qualities are equally well adapted to wit 
and humour. But unlike the novel which is written by one 
man or the picture which is painted in seclusion, the film is the 
result of conferences and staff-work in which it might be thought 
that the sensitive artist would become lost among a welter of 
executives. But this is not so. The twentieth-century artist of 
the film — the director — is a man who combines sensitiveness 
with leadership, who can convey to his cameramen, his elec- 


tricians, his scenic designers and builders, his costumiers and 
his property-men, the spirit of the film as a whole and the sequence 
on which the money is spent in particular. The film is a 
co-operative art, but, as in all creative work, a single mind with 
a single purpose must dominate the whole. The names on the 
credit titles are the names of those who have served under the 
leadership of the director to create the unified though composite 
achievement of the film. 

Behind every large-scale film there lies, therefore, the financial- 
conference, the staff-work of camera, lighting, sets, costumes, 
make-up and finally cutting, together with the discussions of 
producer, director, scenarist, cameraman, editor and actors. 
Collectively they stand or fall. Many good films have been 
vitiated because the best interests were not served in the out- 
come, or because the director himself was indifferent to them. 
Many good films have been created because the best interests 
survived the board-room and the director was loyal to his own 
artistic conscience. 


It is best to start by a description of the film from the purely 
mechanical standpoint. The sound film consists of a series of 
photographs printed on a celluloid strip 35 mm. wide, and 
photographed by the motion camera at twenty-four pictures a 
second. The film is similarly projected at twenty-four pictures 
a second by the film projecting apparatus. The sound is sup- 
plied from a band running down the side of the pictorial series 
on the celluloid. This is called the sound-track, and registers 
the vibration of sound in terms of light. 

The 35 mm. width of celluloid is known as the standard gauge, 
and is usedsby all cinemas. There are various substandard 
gauges, normally 16, 9-5 and 8 mm. Sound can be obtained on 
all the gauges, but the most popular and satisfactory substandard 
gauge for sound film is 16 mm. 

Film is measured in reels, 1000 feet (35 mm. standard), 
400 feet (16 mm. substandard) and 300 feet (9-5 mm. sub- 
standard). The playing time of a reel of any gauge is about 
ten minutes. 

From the spectator's point of view the essential medium is 
a moving picture, still more often black and white than coloured, 
with accompanying reproduced sound. It is important that the 


picture is flat or two-dimensional. It is also important that 
it is viewed with the body of the theatre in darkness, so that, 
from a visual point of view, the spectator's attention is not 
distracted from the screen. A good many painters, whose work 
is exhibited among the distractions of a picture gallery, would 
give a great deal for so concentrated a setting. This brilliantly 
lit picture in an otherwise darkened hall exercises a distinct 
hypnosis upon the audience. Lovers may explore private 
interests, but their eyes at any rate are seldom distracted .from 
the show. 

It. was previously stated that one of the principles of the 
successful practice of art is the artist's skill in exploiting the 
limitations of his medium as distinct from the three-dimensional, 
the all-talking, all-smelling, all-tasting, all-feeling chaos which 
is the inartistic affair called the- experience of life. It is wrong 
to try to make art too life-like! it becomes released from its 
limitations, and so loses its sense of form and proportion. No 
one expects a picture to be without a boundary or frame : but 
life itself has neither boundary nor frame. No one should 
want a picture to be three-dimensional : we can get that effect 
far better by keeping our two eyes open together in contem- 
plation of the same object. The best pictures, in common with 
the worst, have all had an enclosing edge to them; they have 
always been flat and two-dimensional. The artist therefore has 
to decide where to impose the edge of his picture (a difficult 
decision) ; he has to decide its size, and the scale of reduction 
or expansion from life-size of the people and objects he portrays. 
The sum-total of these, and certain other decisions affecting the 
lay-out and colour of the whole work, can be called the picture's 

So far the film, except that the picture is projected on to the 
screen instead of being directly applied to it, shares the artistic 
limitations of a painting. The film has a frame, in that it has 
always to fit into the rectangle of the screen : it is two-dimen- 
sional, so that it cannot affecj the spectator thre^-dimensionally 
like his view of the room in which he is sitting. Composition 
is all-important: everything photographed becomes a two- 
dimensional pattern. 

Look at the room in which you are sitting with one eye closed. 
After a morfient open the closed eye and the room will spring 
into three-dimensional perspective. What you were looking at 

22 FILM 

with one eye closed was a flat two-dimensional picture little 
better than a photograph from the point of view of judging how 
to move about in it. 

The first principles of film art are therefore those belonging 
to the two-dimensional picture within a boundary or 'frame. 
The duty of the film artist is to exploit these principles for 
artistic effect. Director and cameraman do this by choosing the 
most effective part of the scene to be photographed and excluding 
the less effective parts by banishing them outside the artificial 
boundary of the frame. Obvious examples are the close-up of 
a face where the rest of the body is excluded : only the face 
matters. In the normal close-up the background is put out of 
focus and becomes a blur : again only the face matters. Lights 
are carefully placed so that the contours of the face are brought 
out by the use of high light and shadow : for this picture the 
face matters more than ever, so much more that an elaborate 
lighting system unknown in real life is carefully prepared for 
the photograph. If the face does not most effectively reveal the 
emotion of the person in the story, the hand or foot may. The 
close-up can then exclude the irrelevant face and concentrate 
on the significant hand or foot. 

A good director tells his film story from the most telling 
series of selected viewpoints. The good art director assists him 
by building a setting which, when photographed in two dimen- 
sions, will form a striking two-dimensional pattern in keeping 
with the atmosphere of the action in the foreground. This is 
noticeable in British films designed by Zoltan Korda. The use 
of shadows, of simple, bold structural designs, of soft lights and 
shades — the girl dancing in the dusty, empty Regency house in 
St. Martin's Lane, the hard black and white of the palace in 
The Private Life of Henry VIII, or Hitchcock's dramatic use of 
pronounced backgrounds like the windmill in Secret Agent and 
the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur. The two-dimensional steeply 
sloping photographs looking up at a person or building from 
below can, when suddenly presented to an audience, come with 
a powerful sense of shock which builds the climax of the story. 
Not all directors exploit this visual power of the film in the 
way that the great directors of silent films in Germany and 
Russia used to do. Many, in their hurried search for realism, 
are content with the uninteresting, and fill the picture with 
irrelevant details which rival life itself. But the principle of 


good art always has been the principle of significant selection, 
and to clutter up a picture, already severely limited to the 
rectangle, with the transitory and unnecessary is like packing 
all the knick-knacks from the mantelpiece into a week-end case. 

A Study of still photographs exhibited in the better photo- 
graphic exhibitions will reveal the importance of all aspects 
of composition in black-and-white photography. Colours must 
be watched, since blue and red photograph as black, green as 
grey, and so on. The art of photography has reached a high 
level, and the technician places at the artist's disposal a variety 
of devices for improving on nature. It is the director's duty 
to know these devices and to develop' their capabilities with 
appropriate imagination. 

The film shares with the still picture the values of two-dimen- 
sional composition, but it progresses beyond it by making that 
composition mobile. The film moves : the design moves : the 
lighting varies as the objects and persons move. The girl 
coming down the huge staircase, the boat passing over the 
moonlit sea, the barge gliding through the mist, the wheat 
waving diversely against the black and white of a cloudy sky 
— all these things move within the frame of the picture. The 
composition is therefore mobile. And although the film is 
closer to real life than the still picture because it moves, it none 
the less shares the limitations of the still picture because the 
movement takes place within the two-dimensional frame. The 
hand creeps diagonally across the frame to switch off the light, 
the girl falls diagonally across the framed-in patch of grass, the 
ship sails across the frame at a different angle from the path of 
the moonlight, the sun's rays fall across the wall at an angle to 
the table where the man bends into its light. All this movement 
inspires composition, but it is a mobile and progressive com- 
position, often not complete until the movement in the shot is 
finished. The pleasure of watching a well-shot film can be 
greatly increased by sharing this delight in mobile composition 
with a director and cameraman who are capable of creating it. 

Furthermore, the structure of the ijlm leads to another stage 
in mobile composition. The film is made up of a succession 
of photographic shots, each of which though mobile in itself 
has an added compositional quality through its relations to the 
preceding and succeeding pictures. A sharp movement to the 
left may be harshly succeeded in the -next shot by a sharp move- 

24 FILM 

ment to the right. A slow diagonal movement may be followed 
by a beautifully timed expanding movement from the centre to 
the boundaries of the frame. Shots, aided by the devices of 
fading and mixing, may blend into one another with remarkable 
effect. For example, a series of shots dealing with movement 
down a river would lend itself to this. A succession of 
harsh movements might presage a quarrel, where an aesthetic 
clash in the composition combines with an emotional clash 
in the action. These examples are all crude: this technique 
is capable of increasingly subtle development in the hands 
of a good artist. It can be learnt only by practice: it can be 
enjoyed only by skilful and practised watching. The person 
most concerned with this type of composition is the film editor, 
who is responsible for the final assembly of the shots into the 
sequence which the audience sees, and who must be the person 
most aware of the timing of shots in their duration on the screen 
and in their general relation to each other. 

1. Target for Tonight: (Crown Film Unit, 1942. 

British. Director, Harry Watt) 

Two sections of this film showed a remarkable sense of the 
co-ordination of mobile composition, the values of darkness and 
the gradations of black and white, and the relations of sound to 
mobile visual composition. The first is the sequence of the 
taking-off of the bombers, all shot, with natural sound, from 
different angles emphasising in turn the giant size of the planes 
against the dark qualities of the night sky. The crashing and 
roar of the engines was interspersed with fragments of formal 
speech, and the dark looming shots of the planes were cut in 
with the remarkable picture of the head of the squadron leader 
illuminated in his observation dome as he times his pilots out. 
The whole sequence of picture and sound accumulated into a 
climax of excitement and tension to match that of the action 
with which the film was concerned. The second example occurs 
later when F for Freddie flies through the graceful swelling 
clouds, shot after shot following the plane with its forward 
steady movement as the music swells and sweeps with the 
composition of the pictures. 


2. The Long Voyage Home: (United Artists, 1940. 
American. Director, John Ford) 
The opening of this film should rank high in American cinema. 

Dark shots emphasise the fragmentary gleam of the moonlight 
on the torsos of the seamen still confined to their ship as they 
listen with tense impatience to the sounds of the native women 
preparing to meet them. Here, cutting, photography and sound 
combine to impress the audience with the sensual need of the 
men and the warm anticipation of the women. 

3. Example from Russian Cinema. 

Pudovkin, one of the earliest creative imaginations in Russian 
cinema, writes the 4bllo wing passage in his book u Film Tech- 
nique." This passage shows precisely how the artist is prepared 
to exploit every device of which his medium is capable to get 
the effect he needs. After watching a man scything wet grass 
in the sunlight, he describes how he would recreate this action 
in terms of cinema : 

" When the director shoots a scene, he changes the 
position of the camera, now approaching it to the actor, 
now taking it farther away from him, according to the 
subject of his concentration of the spectator's attention — 
either some general movement or else some particularity, 
perhaps the features of an individual. This is the way he 
controls the spacial structure of the scene. Why should he 
not do precisely the same with the temporal? Why should 
not a given detail be momentarily emphasised by retarding 
it on the screen, and rendering it by this means particularly 
outstanding and unprecedentiy clear? Was not the rain 
beating on the stone of the window-sill, the grass falling 
to the ground, retarded, in relation to me, by my sharpened 
attention ? Was it not thanks to this sharpened attention 
that I perceived ever so much more than I had ever s£en 
before ? 

" I tried in my mind's eye to shoot and construct the 
mowing of the grass approximately as follows : 

" 1. A man stands bared to the waist. In his hands is a 
scythe. Pause. He swings the scythe. (The whole move- 
ment goes in normal speed, i.e. has been recorded at 
normal speed.) 

26 FILM 

" 2. The sweep of the scythe continues. The man's back 
and shoulders. Slowly the muscles play and grow tense. 
(Recorded very fast with a ' slow-motion ' apparatus, so 
that the movement on the screen comes out unusually 

" 3. The blade of the scythe slowly turning at the cul- 
mination of its sweep. A gleam of the sun flares up and 
dies out. (Shot in ' slow motion.') 

" 4. The blade flies downward. (Normal speed.) 

"5. The whole figure of the man brings back the scythe 
over the grass at normal speed. A sweep — back. A 
sweep — back. A sweep. . . . And at the moment when 
the blade of the scythe touches the grass — 

" 6. —slowly (in ' slow motion ') the cut grass sways, 
topples, bending and scattering glittering drops. 

" 7. Slowly the muscles of the back relax and the 
shoulders withdraw. 

" 8. Again the grass slowly topples, lies flat. 

" 9. The scythe-blade swiftly lifting from the earth. 

" 10. Similarly swift, the man sweeping with the scythe. 
He mows, he sweeps. 

"11. At normal speed, a number of men mowing, 
sweeping their scythes in unison. 

" 12. Slowly raising his scythe a man moves off through 
the dusk. 

" This is a very approximate sketch. After actual 
shooting, I edited it differently — more complexly, using 
shots taken at very various speeds. Within each separate 
set-up were new, more finely graduated speeds. When I 
saw the result upon the screen I realised the idea was sound. 
The new rhythm, independent of the real, deriving from the 
combination of shots at a variety of speeds, yielded a 
deepened, one might say remarkedly enriched, sense of the 
• process portrayed upon the screen." 

These examples, together with a few critical visits to the 
pictures, should be sufficient to prove that the film is essentially 
something to be seen. Sound, though an integral part of film 
art, is normally subsidiary in its hold over the attention of the 
spectator. This does not stop the film being used for purely 
auditory purposes, as in a picture poorly shot and dully put 


together, but with a sound track full of brilliant wisecracks. 
This is just using the medium of the film to put across the wise- 
cracks. It is very efficient for this purpose, just as words are 
efficient to describe how somebody wishes to leave his property. 
But these same words can be used by poets and dramatists with 
a fuller knowledge of their artistic possibilities. In the same 
way the film can be used to its full potentialities only by men 
who have the imagination to do so. The average director is 
satisfied with average results. So is the average public. But 
the average public is pleasantly surprised when the more-than- 
average artist arrives and shows the possibilities of the medium 
in a new light. Shakespeare and Shaw did this for the average 
public of the theatre. Griffith, Pudovkin, Eisenstein, Lang, 
Grierson, Hitchcock and Ford, with some others, have done 
this for the average cinema public. 

The film has its links with most of the major fine arts, but 
retains its own artistic individuality very strongly. Its alliance 
with the work of the painter and still photographer ends where 
its essential beauty, mobile composition, begins. Its alliance 
with the drama is very superficial, since the best drama is in the 
first place something to be heard, with sight as the subsidiary 
function. Shakespeare and Shaw, the Greek tragedians and 
O'Neill, Aristophanes and Sean O'Casey are men of dramatic 
speech, and actors largely succeed or fail on the stage in so far 
as they are artists of, the spoken word. They combine with 
this quality movement and gesture, qualities to be seen, but 
they are subsidiary. 

The film comes closest in structure to the novel, from which, 
judging from some screen adaptations, it seems most divided. 
The novel has the quality of free narration, of directing the 
reader's attention wherever it is most necessary for the good of 
the story or the emotion, of ranging backwards or forwards in 
the time sequence of the plot, of stressing this and eliminating 
that. It parts company from the film, however, at the point 
where the emotions of a character are described, not shown 
objectively in terms of outward signs or action, and again in its 
discursiveness owing to the fact that a novel may be taken up and 
put down by the reader at any time, whereas the film, to succeed 
in its effect, must be seen continuously from beginning to end. 

Perhaps it is with the ballet that the film can find a kindred 
technique. The ballet with a story implies its narrative by 

28 FILM 

mime and gesture, to which the music acts in precisely the same 
subsidiary capacity as the sound track of the film. Whereas 
the favourite themes of the ballet are fantastic, those of the film 
are realistic. But too little has been done tg show the ballet 
to a wider public through the sympathetic medium of the screen. 


It is worth while repeating the elementary fact of cinema 
which few of its patrons sitting a solid hundred million a week 
in this country and America bother to realise, namely that 
twenty-four photographs on celluloid are flashed at them every 
second on the screen. In silent days only sixteen photographs 
a second were necessary, but the screen was in consequence 
more tiring to watch because the audience was more aware of 
the flashing. There was a sense that the picture was going on 
and off — flickering, in fact — though not to a degree to cause 
acute eyestrain . The complaint of early patrons that the picture 
" rained " was due not to flashing so much as to scratches and 
dirt on the print. A sound film can " rain " just as badly if 
allowed to get dirty. Higher standards of projection are 
demanded today by exhibitor and public alike, and prints are 
kept clean and unscratched while in use. New prints are cheap 
to make, and films showing signs of wear can be junked with 
little loss. 

In order to achieve a smooth transition from each single 
picture to the next slightly different picture, the screen is blacked- 
out for one forty-eighth of a second while it is replaced. That 
is, for one-half of the time an audience is seeing a film it is sitting 
in total darkness without knowing it. If we estimate the 
number of man-hours spent in the British cinema each week as 
seventy-five million, over thirty-seven million of them are spent 
seeing nothing. If the camera cannot lie, a projector can. The 
sound track, however, is continuous. This should act as a 
deterrent to readers who were contemplating asking for half 
their money back. 

Cinemas use banks of projectors, that is projectors and spares 
for breakdown lined up in series. Each projector in use pro- 
jects two reels of film (about twenty minutes showing time) and is 
then replaced by its twin. The change-over from one machine 
to the next is carefully synchronised so that the audience is 


seldom aware of the transition. The momentary appearance 
of a black circle on the top right-hand corner of the picture 
acts as a cue for the operator on the new machine to effect the 

The formula for making a film is therefore as follows : 

Take twenty-four pictures a second for as long as you want 
the image to last on the screen. Call the pictures "frames," 
and one complete image on the screen a " shot." We have 
already seen that the combination of shots which make up a 
complete film is divided by the natural development of the story 
into sequences or stages in the narrative. 

Shots can last a long or short time on the screen, as required 
to convey their contents to the audience. They may be mere 
flashes, or they may last, though they seldom do, two or three 
minutes. Visual variety is one of the main technical features of 
film-making, and a five-minute conversation between two people 
in one place, unbroken on the sound track, will probably be 
most athletic on the part of the camera. The art of shifting 
camera position is to be varied without being restless. A rest- 
less camera distracts from the conversation: a varied camera 
builds the conversation from a few reproduced words to signi- 
ficant, pointed drama. 

Just as sentences are punctuated by the , ; : — ( ) and ., and 
reading speed consequently controlled in relation to the sense- 
divisions of the word-group, so a film is punctuated by various 
devices : 

1. By direct cut. One shot immediately succeeds the next. 

Impression: speed. If well done, clean, efficient con- 
tinuity. If badly done, slight to serious visual shock, 
and sense of restlessness and jerky continuity. 

2. By fade-in and fade-out. The gradual emergence of a shot 

from a black frame, and its opposite. The direct cut is 
a kind of comma; the fade-out, if quick a semi-colon, 
if long a fullstop. Any film will produce a variety of 
fades used for a number of types of punctuation. 

3. By dissolve. The gradual change from one scene to 

another by superimposition of the images, the end of 
the first shot being carefully timed in relation to the 
emergence of the next. This can be used merely as a 
technical trick instead of direct cut or dissolve, or with 
great artistic effect. Its virtue lies in its power of 

30 FILM 

suggestion, the soft almost imperceptible link it can 
imply between the two shots momentarily married on 
the screen. 

4. By wipe. The effect of a wipe has been described as if an 

invisible roller were passed over the screen horizontally 
or vertically, wiping out one picture and revealing the 
next. It is used most in newsreels and quota quickies. 
It implies pep. It takes a sensitive viewer a moment to 
recover from the shock to his illusion of the depth and 
pattern of the shot. It is violent, inartistic and un- 
economic compared with the direct cut. Whilst the 
roller rolls, neither shot is of any value to the 
audience. It has no psychological value parallel to the 

5. By continuity title. Words cease on the sound, track and 

eitheY silence or music ensues. Words appear as titling 
on the screen, as in the old silent days. This effect is 
excellent for paragraphing an episodic film, or for 
journalistic headings, as in The March of Time. Its 
value is emphasis. Salient points of introduction or 
fact can be imparted in this specialised manner: it is 
more pointed than emphasis in the spoken commentary 
because it is different and because it is visual. Its abuse 
is over-use. It is excellently handled in The March of 
Time series and in the better-edited newsreels. 

6. By other camera devices, not involving a cut, dissolve or 

fade. The technical elaboration of the modern studio 
encourages a director to stop at nothing for effect. 
Instead of a simple cut from outside to inside a building, 
the camera offers him legs and wings. It can appear to 
climb steps and steal like a ghost in and out of public 
buildings and private flats. It can run up a skyscraper 
and slide in through a window to intercept the last few 
sentences of the gangster's plot. It can behave with or 
without sympathy when trying to see life steadily and 
see it whole on behalf of intoxication. It can swing 
through the air with the greatest of ease. It can pass 
away from a lady as she starts to undress, and swing 
back when she is robed again, so that the Board and the 
Hays Office shall be spared a morality conference. It 
can tilt down the slender calves as the underclothes fall 


and climb up thousand-dollar legs to meet the on-coming 

All these devices save cutting and take their place in the field 
of film punctuation. Their value is obvious: they assist in 
smoothness of continuity and variety of effect. They can be 
used for their true purpose, to put the story across pointedly 
and economically, or they can be used to show themselves off 
at the film's expense — technics for technique's sake. Audiences 
enjoy the fun at first, but in the end they have a date with the 
story, not the camera. 

We are now gradually reaching a point from which we can 
appreciate the position of the scenario w 7 riter getting down to 
his script. He is given a story and has to prepare a treatment. 
The treatment must conform to the basic principles and limita- 
tions of the art of the film. It must* use what the film has to 
offer in the way of technique to make the subject effective 
through the medium of the screen. Broadly speaking, sight 
must come first and sound second. They cannot, of course, be 
treated separately in a sound film, but the predominant sense 
enjoyed is sight, and to starve it for the sake of beautiful or even 
witty dialogue, or for a breezy-up-to-minute-hundred-per-cent.- 
wisecracking commentary, is eventually to sell out as far as 
the future of cinema is concerned. Cinema-goers prefer a 
Hitchcock or a Korda to a quota quickie however packed with 
badly handled thrills. It is rare for a first-class film to fail to 
get its audiences. Occasionally a great film may pull ahead 
too far from the grasp of mass audience comprehension, such 
as The Grapes of Wrath and Citizen Kane. But even these 
advanced films held large audiences taken in the aggregate, 
although requiring for their appreciation rather more culture 
than the average public queueing up after work has been able 
to assimilate. 

The scenarist, using various methods peculiar to himself as 
an artist, sets out to group the action into shots and sequences. 
He translates story into pictures with sound. He is a good 
artist in so far as he does this brilliantly and with full regard 
for the capacities of camera and microphone: a competent 
artist in so far as he does this faithfully but without more than 
ordinary skill ; a mediocre artist in so far as he cares little for 
the story in film terms but earns his living to the best of his 
mediocre imagination ; and a bad artist in so far as he is care- 

32 FILM 

less of his medium and conscienceless over his duty to his story. 
He may be helped or hinctered by good or indifferent producers, 
directors, cameramen and actors. A large number of the best 
brains in the world 'are in the daily service of the screen. It is 
because of this that it is rare to see a badly handled film these 
days in a good-class cinema : what one sees more commonly is 
a pedestrian story competently handled. The significance of 
this from the cultural and social point of view will be dis- 
cussed later in the book. 

Both the competent and the brilliant artist are aware first of 
all of the mobility of the camera. They realise that the advan- 
tages they have over the dramatist are that the camera as a 
recording instrument can be placed successively in the ideal 
positions to see the action, and the microphone in the ideal 
positions to hear it. The difference between competence and 
brilliance lies in the degree of imaginative interpretation and 
reconstruction of the action into terms of cinema which the 
artist can bring to bear. 

The competent worker watches continuity, clean camera-work, 
efficient subjection of the story into sequence-groups and 
economic timing of all movement and acting to make sure no 
essential element clarifying the story is missed out. He will 
tolerate no obscurity in his shots, no poor acting by star or 
super, no unnecessary pictures. His work is finally cut with 
precision, and if the running time is ninety-three minutes, the 
story could not have been told more efficiently in the manner 
intended in less than ninety. There is little room for criticism 
of his work technically; producer, distributor, exhibitor and 
audience are alike well-off in pleasure or in pocket. This com- 
petent treatment is the staple of good box-office. 

The brilliant artist, on the other hand, is prepared to take 
risks which he may or may not sell to his public, or for that 
matter to his producer. His films are often too long (like the 
Russian epics), too intense or obscure (like UAtalante), too 
episodic (like The Grapes of Wtath), or too technical (like 
Citizen Kane). They may overbalance by allowing too much 
predominance to dialogue at the expense of the camera (like La 
Femme du Boulanger or the work of the Marx brothers), or too 
little (like the later work of Charlie Chaplin). They may put 
too great a stress on sheer beauty of eamera-work (like Flaherty's- 
Man of Aran). They may develop any number of faults for the 


critics, brought up on competence, to pick out for wisecracks 
to the neglect of the salient virtues of a picture worth a hundred 
competent marvels. They may be fortunate, like Hitchcock and 
Lang, because their stories in any case appeal to all comers, who 
may not be able to appreciate the skill and beauty with which 
these stories are presented. Or they may be fortunate, like 
Eisenstein and Pudovkin and the other great Russian directors, 
in having State support and large far-reaching audiences ready 
to appreciate a political cinema. Or they may merely have to 
tak£ a risk like Disney in Fantasia, Welles in. Citizen Kane, Ford 
in The Grapes of Wrath, Chaplin in Modern Times, Powell in 
The Edge of the World, Capra in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, San- 
tell in Winter set, Flaherty in Nanook and Vigo in UAtalante or 
Zero de Conduite. Films like these are of variable value in 
recent cinema history, but all are significant and many of per- 
manent distinction in the period to which they belong. Before 
them the titles of other films stand out in bold type-face in the 
histories of the earlier days of sound film and in the ten peak 
years of silent cinema. The average film of today has grown, 
as always, out of the more-than-average film of yesterday, and 
the production boss who looks to scoff remains to pay. 

Some technical points are worth watching at the cinema with 
the query in one's mind: Is the treatment of the action just 
competent- or is it occasionally or continuously brilliant ? 

1. The Shot 

The use of variable set-up for the camera. Taking a given 
object mpunted on a glass floor and a camera with a variety of 
lenses including microscopic and telephoto, there seem to be 
few limitations placed upon the cameraman as to the set-up 
which can be adopted to photograph the outside of the object. 
If the object is too small to be seen easily, then the microscopic 
lens will magnify it (as in The Secrets of Nature). The only 
limitation appears to be lighting, which again is under the 
control of the cameraman, or the unwillingness of the object 
to be photographed on a glass stand, such as an untamed lion 
in an African jungle. In practice, leaving the glass floor to the 
director of revue with legs to look for, the camera can work 
indoors from floor to ceiling, or outdoors from ground to 
stratosphere. To be original, pointed and economic with such 
variety of opportunity is far more difficult than finding a needle 
F.— 2 

34 FILM 

in a haystack. To find the most apt out of the many adequate 
camera-angles is the act of genius over competence. 

The film is, after all, a collection of camera-angles consciously 
selected and purposely limited within the frame. Each shot 
has to be labelled telephoto shot, distance shot, long shot, 
medium shot, close-up, microscopic shot, with all their various 
intermediates. If the camera moves it must either tilt, which 
means move upwards and downwards ; pan, which means move 
sideways ; fly on a crane, or track on a wheeled base. It may 
even sway on a pendulum as in Vertov's Three Songs of Lenin ; 
though one hastens to add that this should be for exceptional 
effect only. 

Out of all these possibilities the Tight shot must be chosen. 
The competent director will be satisfied with clean well-lit shots 
taken at near eye-level from distance shot to close-up, varied 
sometimes by a shot taken from above or low on the ground 
(pity the poor locomotive), The undershot, however, was used 
with culminating effect in Winterset, when Trock's confederate 
arrives as from death itself after being filled with lead and 
thrown into the river. 

The brilliant director will take more chances and usually be 
right. Rene Clair shot a wedding-group kissing each other 
from six feet over their bared bald heads and ducking feathered 
hats in The Italian Straw Hat. Some director or other, probably 
a Russian in the earlier post-war silent days, realised the psycho- 
logical value of the distortion achieved by photographing 
dominant capitalist figures and military bullies from two yards 
in front of their feet, tilting up. Fritz Lang in M saw the 
psychological value of shooting the chase of his demented 
victim from a roof-top looking down where four streets meet in 
the lamplight, with the lonely figure rushing hysterically from 
side to side as the pursuit closes in. A wonderful long tracking 
shot slowly passes down the line of St. Joan's clerical inquisitors 
with white habits and cruel, repressed, other-worldly expressions 
as the camera relentlessly leaves one for the other and then the 
next in La Passion de Jeanne a 1 ' Arc. The line of military jack- 
boots steps down with brutal grace and trained precision on 
to the step along which the eye of the camera is looking from 
foot-level : the spectator is prone before the White Guards, like 
the dead bodies that sprawl over the Odessa steps in The Battle- 
ship Potemkin. In Un Carnet de Bal, one of the few great 


French films widely shown in the provinces of Britain on a 
commercial scale, the sequences dealing with the epileptic doctor 
were shot aslant with macabre effect, culminating in a dissolve 
from the man struggling in a paroxysm as he shoots his wife, 
to a picture of the crashing, clanking cranes which work inter- 
minably outside the tenement consulting-room. 

The invention of these things, the initial conception which 
realises they are the right thing to do before they have been 
done, is the work of a fertile visual imagination. Two are from 
sound, three from silent films. The visual experiment of the 
mature silent film is of the greatest value to the later sound 

Lighting. — Lighting is all-important to the shot. It is rare to 
see a flat white light in any modern film. Lit from various 
angles, actor, furniture, property and set can be induced to make 
the shot pictorially impressive. The sense of pattern can be 
developed by the sharpness of high-light and shadow, or the 
sense of mystery deepened by the uge of misty half-light produced 
by the device known as soft focus or an image slightly blurred. 
This, one may feel in retrospect, particularly suits close-ups of 
beautiful women and scenes in docks or railway stations at night. 
Even squalor can be made beautiful if shot in half-light. The 
German silent cinema specialised in the beauty of slums, back- 
waters and fairgrounds. 

Close-up. — Finally, in sizing up his shot in his mind's eye, the 
scenarist or the director, or both in conference, must decide on 
the correct and sparing use of the close-up. In all films a small 
proportion of shots must be in close-up and even big close-up. 
The use must be sparing, because the emphasis in point of size 
is overwhelming, and few actors and actresses survive the 
close-up with distinction. Details of facial expression can 
easily be seen in the medium or half-length shot, and there 
should be a genuine reason for the appearance of a close-up 
in the shooting script. In some films it is flogged mercilessly 
whilst large face speaks to large face in an unrelenting succession 
of unnecessary intimacies. Used in early primitives v/ithout 
much thought, it was popularised by Griffith, whose untrained 
audiences at first cried out for the actor's legs. No harm would 
be done now if they called out sometimes for the actress's. 

Close-up, with its supreme power of emphasis, can be used to 
enforce the full attention of the audience upon facial acting at 

36 FILM 

a crucial moment in the story (remember Laughton, Dietrich, 
Garbo, Baur, Jouvet, Rainer, Fonda, Bette Davis), or direct 
attention to detail necessary to the development of the story — 
in melodrama, the hand feeling the automatic in a pocket ; in 
drama, the hand on the door knob ; in comedy, the hand finding 
the dime on the pavement ; in tragedy, the hand falling still in 
death. The close-up is part of the mobility of the camera now 
expected by a generation of trained cinema-goers, but they 
complain when they get too much of it. For facial acting, only 
highly developed artistes can survive this terrific magnification 
with more than momentary success. The case of the close-up 
in documentary, where the non-professional actor is used, is 
rather different, as we shall see.- So also is the obvious import- 
ance of close-up in the instructional film, where processes are 
being explained and emphasised. 

Other Devices. — Before proceeding from shot to sequence, 
certain devices can be used to bring added value to the narrative 
presentation. First is distortion. Soft focus is a form of this, 
but the distortion can be much more violent and serve a definite 
artistic purpose. It is deliberately used, for instance, in In 
which we Serve to link the sequences of the men machine-gunned 
in the water with the scenes depicting their past individual 
experiences. The shot of the raft and the men distorts like an 
image reflected in disturbed water and then dissolves into the 
new sequence at home. The slanting shots in Un Carnet de Bgl 
are distortions within the frame. So are many shots in Citizen 
Kane, which will be discussed later. Second is slow-motion. 
The shot in Pudovkin's Deserter of the suicide who jumps into 
a river is taken in semi-slow-motion, and so the man appears 
to be sucked down into the water which splashes round him 
in a great fan of enclosing waves. The values of quick-motion 
for farcical effects are obvious. All these devices are psycho- 
logically justified if used with judgment and artistry. 

What is Left Out. — We have seen earlier that the film must 
exploit its own limitations for artistic effect, and that one of 
these limitations is that comparatively small area which the 
camera-lens can cover compared with the wide-angled lens of 
the human eye. The artist can make use of this limitation with 
excellent effect. It is obvious in every film that dialogue is often 
carried on without the camera shooting the speaker. The 
effect of what is said is seen in the faces of the hearers. The 


person responsible for the filmic treatment of narrative or docu- 
mentary has to woik out how time may be saved and the treat- 
ment tightened by letting the sound track do one job while 
the visual track does another. Whilst Mr. Barrett of Wimpole 
Street prays to his God, Flush, fresh from earthly preoccupations, 
passes his master's dining-room door with a shrug of contempt 
and slides upstairs to his mistress. A good deal can be learned 
from this in less than thirty seconds. Bette Davis in The Letter 
begins the film by standing on the steps of her Malayan residence 
and shooting her revolver off-screen. The body of thfe man she 
shoots, irrelevant at this stage when everything that matters is 
herself, is never even seen. In the old German film Vaudeville, 
which made Emil Jannings's reputation as an actor in America, 
the scene where the two men struggle on the floor with a knife 
is shot at a level above the fight, with only a drab hotel bedroom 
to look at while you wait in a state of tension for the face of 
the man who is to be left alive to rise up into the frame. In 
the French film Remous the sensual wife of the civil engineer 
rendered impotent by a car accident durin| their honeymoon, 
preens herself whilst she is inspecting a large dam built under 
her husband's direction. Eventually we are allowed to see why : 
a virile workman is admiring her in smiling silence. From 
then on the theme of the film is set without word and almost 
without action. 

This last example leads us naturally to consideration of the 
sequence, since no shot in a film can be considered by its single 
self as complete : it requires to be seen in conjunction with what 
went before and what succeeds. 

2. The Sequence 

The sequence is the paragraph of the film. It may consist 
of a few shots naturally linked together and lasting only a 
minute, or it may plan out an almost indefinite length of time 
as in The Petrified Forest, when the scene remains the same and 
the characters are hardly regrouped for a considerable period. 
A short sequence was given in detail above from Pudovkin's 
book on film technique. Consideration of the sequence at 
once gives rise to the "consideration of editing or, as it used to 
be called in earlier and more aesthetic days, " montage." 

Editing is the art of putting the film together shot by shot 

38 FILM 

from the celluloid strips themselves. Documentary directors 
usually do their own editing and attach as much importance 
to this process as they do to the actual shooting. Russian 
directors frequently adopted the same attitude, and so did 
Flaherty in Man of Aran and in previous films shot on lone 
locations. The common practice, however, is to employ a 
highly paid technician to edit the film carefully from the 
shooting script. The director, whether he takes part in the 
actual process of editing or not, cannot fail to take an interest 
in it. Trie effect he has aimed at on the studio floor can be 
ruined by careless or unsympathetic editing. The skill required 
to edit a competent film with a clean shooting script and a 
routine sense of efficient timing and slick continuity is 
obviously less than is required to assemble films like UAtalante 
and The Grapes of Wrath from their component shots. A 
film playing an hour and a half may contain as many as three 
or four hundred separate pictures. The editor has to choose 
the beginning and end of each of these, as well as reject the 
material which actually never reaches the screen. Many ' 
directors do not shoot economically, but shoot to waste with 
many versions of the same scene, one of which has to be 
chosen and the rest junked. The editor's task is a formid- 
able one, helped though he may be by his director and his 

But it should not be forgotten that in America most directors 
are not permitted either to prepare or edit their films on their 
own initiative. They are required to shoot them point by 
point on the floor of the studio. The producer, not the director, 
is the arbiter of what should or should not be done with the 
story. The editor, not the director, is the arbiter of what should 
or should not be done with what the director creates from the 
camera. The director himself rarely begins or ends the creative 
treatment of the film he is supposed to complete. 

The problem as to whether or not he should edit his own 
films is best left to the opinions of two eminent directors, one 
Russian and one English : 

" Editing is the language of the film director. Just as in 
living speech, so, one may say, in editing : there is a word — 
the piece of exposed film, the image ; a phrase — the com- 
bination of these pieces. Only by his editing methods can 


one judge a director's individuality." (Pudovkin, " Film 
Technique," p. 72.) 

" With the help of my wife, who does the technical con- 
tinuity, I plan out a script very carefully, hoping to follow 
it exactly, all the way through, when shooting starts. In 
fact, this working on the script is the real making of the 
film for me. When I've done it, the film is finished already 
in my mind. Usually, too, I don't find it necessary to do 
more than supervise the editing myself. I know it is said 
sometimes that a director ought to edit his own pictures if 
he wants to control their final form, for it is in the editing, 
according to this yiew, that a film is really brought into 
being. But if the scenario is planned out in detail, and 
followed closely during production, editing should be easy. 
All that has to be done is to cut away irrelevancies and 
see that the finished film is an accurate rendering of the 
scenario." (Hitchcock, in Davy's "Footnotes to the 
Film," p. 5.) 

The editing of the earliest primitives was merely a matter of 
expediency, not artistry. The first men to sense the power in 
their hands were Griffith and Charlie Chaplin. To Griffith is 
due the elementary principle of slow and quick cutting : the 
development of tempo and rhythm. Slow cutting induces a 
gentle mood: quick cutting induces excitement and tension. 
Griffith, who brought the close-up into artistic prominence, 
also shot the ice-flow sequence in Way down East and the last- 
minute reprieve in Intolerance. These required the build-up of 
tension in the audience by alternating between shots of the 
approaching rescue and the plight of the victim. Chaplin 
developed economy : shorts like Easy Street and The Cure 
were masterpieces in the cutting away of inessentials without 
sacrifice of comic detail. ' 

In the German cinema of the early twenties {Caligari, Sieg- 
fried, Warning Shadows, Metropolis, Faust, Vaudeville) this 
elementary principle was carried forward but scarcely developed. 
Its undeniable atmospheric power was due less to editing than 
to lighting. The German technicians, with great feeling for 
their macabre and sombre subjects in the depression after the 
war, studied the use of shadows and produced a series of master- 
pieces for showing 'to their equally depressed audiences who 

40 FILM 

visited the unheated cinemas in a mood of fatalism. The big 
U.F. A. producing company (still flourishing or languishing under 
Nazi control) received Government subsidy to produce films on 
German themes in the early twenties, though little that they 
made could be said to be very uplifting to depressed spirits. If 
an artist should reflect the mood of his times, rather than act 
as a leader to something better, then the makers of these films 
were artists as well as technicians. With incredible ingenuity, 
in the year following the Armistice and in conditions of hardship 
and poverty, Wiene gathered together his little group of actors 
and theatrical scene designers and made The Cabinet of Dr. 
Caligari, the reconstruction of a madman's fiction woven round 
his fellow inmates at an asylum. Out of a little lath and canvas, 
and by the use of ingenious lighting which is never elaborate, he 
produced a series of beautiful sets and moving images in the 
expressionist manner. The film has been called decadent and 
primitive, but it can still be received today in absorbed silence 
by a discerning audience. Shots remain in the memory — the 
lovely shadows across the frame as Caligari opens the sleep- 
walker's upstanding coffin on the trestle stage in the fairground ; 
the hanging draperies round the sleeping girl, and the tall on- 
coming figure of the sleep-walker, played with an early feeling 
for cinematic detail by Conrad Veidt; the same black figure 
with arm upstretched against the wall creeping through the 
fantastic courtyard to stab the sleeping girl; the flight up the 
sharp angles of the roof-tops and across the weird foreshortened 
bridge when the pursuit draws close. 
This film was the most advanced piece of art the cinema had 
v yet seen except for Griffith's epics and Chaplin's one-reelers in 
a very different manner. It founded no school and led nowhere, 
for expressionism does not suit the film, which is an art based 
on the realistic approach to the material of life. Its contribution 
was solely that of lighting, the subtle development of visual 
atmosphere, and the beginning of a conception of screen acting 
in the work of Werner Krauss and Conrad Veidt. There is 
much still to be learnt from it by the competent director, since 
it was the product of real feeling and devotion to a new and 
relatively untried medium and was an undoubted success within 
its own limits. It was shown widely in this country in the 
early twenties, and was revived by many film societies in the 
early thirties. 


But neither Caligari nor the succeeding tradition of U.F.A. 
discovered much of the value of editing as such. These films 
progress with a steady slowness, the atmosphere depending on 
each shot or the genius of occasional actors like Veidt, Krauss 
and Jannings. There is elementary cutting in the manner of 
Griffith as Siegfried approaches the watching dragon through 
the tall trees and sloping shadows of the great forest, or in the 
hectic dance scene in Metropolis, and great feeling for tempo in 
the last reel of Vaudeville. For the German film pondered and 
dwelt where the American cut and ran, whilst the Russian 
became a symphony of movement and design. It was the 
Russian film which took the mature aesthetic lead during the 
silent days of cinema. 

The Russian cinema industry was nationalised in 1919. Li- 
the same year the Moscow State School of Cinematography was 
founded. In the earliest twenties experiment in camera-angles 
was carried out by Vertov (his theory being that the camera has 
an eye which can go anywhere), and in cutting by Kuleshov 
who, from the Russian point of view, brought editing to a 
prominence undreamed of by Griffith, though derived from him, 
with acknowledgments, by Pudovkin. Here at last was a 
country which put the film first and the box office afterwards, 
and encouraged its brilliant directors to experiment at the State 
expense whether they made mistakes or not. In return it 
expected the Russian revolution in all its phases, past, present 
and future, to be their guiding theme, and asked for master- 
pieces to be produced at reasonable intervals to educate both 
the literate townsman and the illiterate peasant in the new 
economy and the new ideology. Russian cinema obtained, as 
a result, the greatest series of films of the silent period, and 
world cinema obtained its first aesthetic, Montage. 

Montage is a French word which cannot be translated Without 
losing some of the meaning, like le mot juste. It means what 
Pudovkin so lucidly explains in his book " Film Technique," a 
collection of papers on the subject ably translated by Ivor 
Montagu and published here in 1929. This book, together 
with Arnheim's ■" Film," which attempts a German synthesis 
of film aesthetic mainly based on the silent period, was the first 
constructive attempt to establish a conscious, written explanation 
of cinema technique and aesthetic criticism. It was followed in 
the early sound period by the writings of the British school of 

42 FILM 

documentary directors led by John Grierson, which, because 
an unenlightened Government failed to see the need to reply to 
Russian film propaganda except by banning the public exhibition 
of Soviet films in this country, was too often left to write of the 
films its young directors wanted to make instead of being able 
to translate their theory into celluloid. It is small wonder, there- 
fore, that Russian technique was sometimes admired to dis- 
traction and made ill-timed appearance in films where a simpler 
treatment was required. 

The books of Pudovkin (there is another on " Film Acting ") 
and of Arnheim should be read by everyone who is prepared 
to take the cinema seriously as an art. Pudovkin's book is 
full of a progressive and captivating enthusiasm: he is dis- 
covering as he writes. Arnheim's book, more august, more 
comprehensive, more philosophic, more German, remains the 
most complete aesthetic between two covers that film criticism 
has yet produced, though Raymond Spottiswoode's academic 
" Grammar of the Film " should not be overlooked. 


Pudovkin 1 explains that to the director-editor separate shots 
are like separate words: their meaning is built up by their 

" I claim that every object, taken from a given view- 
point and shown on the screen to spectators, is a dead 
object, even though it has moved before the camera. 
The proper movement of an object before the camera is 
yet no movement on the screen, it is no more than raw 
material for the future building-up, by editing, of the 
movement that is conveyed by the assemblage of the 
various strips of film. Only if the object be placed together 
among a number of separate objects, only if it be presented 

1 Career : V. I. Pudovkin, born 1893. Educated at Moscow : 
studied chemistry at the University ; volunteered 1914 ; German 
prisoner ; during captivity studied languages and drew pictures ; after 
the Revolution met Kuleshov and studied cinema technique with him ; 
also worked as an actor. Outstanding films include — silent: The 
Mechanism of the Brain, 1925 (for Pavlov); Mother, 1926; End of St. 
Petersburg, 1927 ; The Heir to Genghiz Khan, 1928 ; sound : Deserter, 
1933. Lecturer in the State Academy of Motion Pictures. Two 
books translated into English by Ivor Montagu : " Film Technique " 
(Gollancz, 1929 ; Newnes, 1933), and/' Film Acting " (Newnes, 1935). 


as part of a synthesis of different separate visual images, 
is it endowed with filmic life." (Pudovkin, " Film Tech- 
nique," pp. xiv > xv.) 

Before setting out to make his film, the director-scenarist 
must consider his work in three stages. First, the theme, that 
is the general subject of the film (the October Revolution, the 
conquering of peasant opposition to mechanised farming, the 
adventures of the battleship " Potemkin "). Second comes the 
action and its treatment (the story which is the bare outline that 
will at once contain an illustration of the theme and form the 
staple entertainment value of the film). s Third comes the cine- 
matographic planning of the action (the preparation of the story 
for the camera in the form of a shooting-script in which the 
values of individual shot and constructive editing are balanced 
in accordance with the visual genius of the director). 

Pudovkin speaks of the selection of proper plastic material. 
This is not a dead theoretical phrase, but a vital part in the 
invention and building process of his film. The selection of 
what is to be photographed and what excluded, how the material 
is to be placed in front of the camera, even the shape and 
movement of an actor's face and limbs, and the relation of them 
to the pattern of the set, the properties and the desired angles of 
light-shadow; this is the process of using the proper plastic 
material. Everything in the picture is significant in the early 
Russian masterpieces. 

The development of a sense of tension is derived by Pudovkin 
from Griffith, whom he acknowledges to be his master. 

" During work on the treatment the scenarist must always 
consider the varying degree of tension in the action. This 
tension must, after all, be reflected in the spectator, forcing 
him to follow the given part of the picture with more or 
less excitement. This excitement does not depend from 
the dramatic situation alone, it can be created or strengthened 
by purely extraneous methods. The gradual winding-up 
of the dynamic elements of the action, the introduction of 
scenes built from rapid, energetic work of the characters, 
the introduction of crowd scenes, all these govern increases 
of excitement in the spectator, and one must learn so to 
construct the scenario that the spectator is gradually 

44 FILM 

engrossed by the developing action, receiving the most 
effective impulse only at the end. The vast majority of 
scenarios suffer from clumsy building up of tension." 
(Pudovkin, " Film Technique," p. 18.) 

He summarises the work of the director-scenarist in these 
terms : 

" Hence an important rule for the scenarist : in working 
out each incident he must carefully consider and select 
each visual image ; he must remember that for each con- 
cept, each idea, there may be tens and hundreds of possible 
means of plastic expression, and that it is his task to select 
from amongst them the clearest and most vivid. Special 
attention, however, must be paid to the special part played 
in pictures by objects. Relationships between human 
beings are, for the most part, illuminated by conversations, 
by words; no one carries on conversation with objects, 
and that is why work with them, being expressed by visual 
action, is of special interest to the film technician. Try to 
imagine to yourself anger, joy, confusion, sorrow, and so 
forth expressed, not in words and the gestures accompanying 
them, but in action . connected with objects, and you will 
see how images saturated with plastic expression come into 
your mind. Work on plastic material is of the highest 
importance for the scenarist. In the process of it he learns 
to imagine to himself what he has written as it will appear 
upon the screen, and the knowledge thus acquired is 
essential for correct and fruitful work. 

" One must try to express one's concepts in clear and 
vivid visual images. Suppose it be a matter of the character- 
isation of some person of the action — this person must 
be placed in such conditions as will make him appear, 
by means of some action or movement, in the desired light. 
Suppose it be a matter of the representation of some 
event — those scenes must be assembled that most vividly 
emphasise visually the essence of the event represented." 
(Pudovkin, " Film Technique," pp. 30, 31.) 

The art of editing, or montage, develops out of the results of 
this creative labour. The scenarist edits on paper; the film is 
conceived, organised, shot : the rushes are in the director- 


editor's hand, and probably round his neck. Out of all this 
celluloid divided in hundreds of separate strips, and guided only 
by his shooting script and his filmic sense, he must commence 
the final process of montage. 
Pudovkin divides editing for the silent screen into : 

(1) The simplest form : the art of the attentive observer. The 
camera moves around and over the action so that by the process 
of long, medium and close-up shots, the story is told action 
by action from the best of all possible viewpoints. The view- 
points are then linked together into the sequence. 

(2) The more complex form of cutting parallel action. This 
is the form of cutting developed by Griffith when dealing 
" with simultaneity of actions in several different places." The 
editor cuts from one to the other action, building his tempo to 
suit the excitement or degree of tension. Pudovkin points out 
the psychological nature of this treatment : 

" There is a law in psychology that lays it down that if 
an emotion gives birth to a certain movement, by imitation 
of this movement the corresponding emotion can be called 
forth. If the scenarist can effect in even rhythm the trans- 
ference of interest of the intent spectator, if he can so 
construct the elements of increasing interest that the 
question, ' What is happening at the other place ? ' arises 
and at the same moment the spectator is transferred whither 
he wishes to go, then the editing thus created can really 
excite the spectator. One must learn to understand that 
editing is in actual fact a ccfmpulsory and deliberate guidance 
of the thoughts and associations of the spectator. If the 
editing be merely an uncontrolled combination of the 
various pieces, the spectator will understand (apprehend) 
nothing from it; but if it be co-ordinated according to a 
definitely selected course of events or conceptual line, either 
agitated or calm, it will either excite or soothe the spectator." 
(Pudovkin, " Film Technique," p. 45.) 

(3) Relational Cutting. — Various devices can be used to 
heighten the effect required : 

(a) Contrast. — Shots of starvation cut in witli shots of gluttony. 

(b) Parallelism, — This is a development of contrast. Pudov- 
kin's illustration uses the situation of a condemned worker 
under the old regime and a drunken, callous factory-owner. 

46 FILM 

The condemned man is to be executed at 5 a.m. Scenes of 
preparation in the prison are timed, not by the prison clock, 
but by the wrist-watch of the capitalist as he lolls in untidy 
drunken sleep. 

(c) Symbolism. — In Pudovkin's film Mother the procession 
of the strikers advancing to meet the White cavalry is symbolised 
by cutting-in shots of a huge ice-flow breaking itself against 
the parapet of a bridge. The movements are carefully related 
in speed. 

(d) The Simultaneous. — Cutting with increasing tempo from 
the growing plight of the victim to the dash of the rescuer. 
Used by Griffith. 

0) Leit-motif (reiteration of theme). — The repetition of the 
same shot in a film to emphasise a theme. 

Pudovkin takes a strong view of the dictatorship of the 
director. He alone is the key-man in the production; his 
assistants contribute only according to his will. His actors, 
though requiring to have plasticity of expression, act only under 
his guidance. He is the final arbiter of the disposition of his 
strips of celluloid, which, free in his own space-sense and his 
own time-sense, he links into a final pattern of movement by 
which he controls the mood of his audience. 

" Between the natural event and its appearance upon the 
screen there is a marked difference. It is exactly this 
difference that makes the film an art. Guided by the 
director, the camera assumes the task of removing every 
superfluity and directing the attention of the spectator in 
such a way that he shall see only that which is significant 
and characteristic." (Pudovkin, " Film Technique," p. 58.) 

" When we wish to apprehend anything, we always begin 
with the general outlines, and then, by intensifying our 
examination to the highest degree, enrich the apprehension 
by an ever-increasing number of details. The particular, 
the detail, will always be a synonym of intensification. It 
is upon this that the strength of the film depends, that its 
characteristic speciality is the possibility of giving a clear, 
especially vivid representation of detail. The power of 
filmic representation lies in the fact that, by means of the 
camera, it continually strives to penetrate as deeply as 
possible, to the mid-point of eveiy image. The camera, 


as it were, forces itself, ever striving, into profoundest 
deeps of life ; it strives thither to penetrate, whither the 
average spectator never reaches as he glances casually 
around him. The camera goes deeper; anything it can 
see it approaches, and thereafter eternalises upon the 
celluloid." (Pudovkin, " Film Technique," pp. 62, 63.) 

u The work of the director is characterised by thinking 
in filmic pictures; by imagining events in that form in 
which, composed of pieces joined together in a certain 
sequence, they will appear upon the screen ; by considering 
real incidents only as material from which to select separate 
characteristic elements; and by building a new filmic 
reality out of them. Even when he has to do with real 
objects in real surroundings he thinks only of their appear- 
ances upon the screen. He never considers a real object 
in the sense of its actual, proper nature, but considers in it 
only thoseproperties that can be carried over on to celluloid . 
The film director looks only conditionally upon his material, 
and this conditionality is extraordinarily specific ; it arises 
from a whole series of properties peculiar only to the film." 
(Pudovkin, " Film Technique," pp. 69, 70.) 


The greatest names of the Russian silent film are Kuleshov, 
Vertov, Dovzhenko, Alexandrov, Pudovkin and Eisenstein. 1 
Sequences linger in the visual memory from the work of some 
of these directors, especially Eisenstein and Pudovkin. It is 
impossible to forget the handling of the lock-out and the strikers' 
march in Mother, the tractor and milk-separator sequences in 
General Line, and above all the Odessa-steps sequence in Potem- 
kln, which is the classic sequence of silent cinema and possibly 

1 S. E. Eisenstein, born 1898. Engineer, architect and artist. 
In the Red Army 1918. Worked for the theatre and on crowd 
pageants during early twenties. Interest in epic and crowd work, 
took him into the cinema 1923. Chief films with the distinguished 
cameraman Eduard Tisse are : silent, The Battleship Potemkin, 1924; 
October, 1927 ; The Old and the New, 1929 ; sound, Thunder over 
Mexico, 1932 (with Alexandrov, but commercial American editing 
and sound track of Mexican folk songs) ; Alexander Nevski (with 
Vassiliev), 1939. Writing chiefly to be found in the form of articles 
and interviews in " Close-up," "Film Art," etc., and his one work, 
" The Film Sense" (Faber, London, 1943), published after this book 
was written. 

48 FILM 

the most influential six minutes in cinema history. It illustrates 
the theory of montage in Pudovkin's book, and was the model 
from which Grierson and the British documentary directors 
received their first education in cinema technique. It is made 
up as follows : 

Theme. The Russian Revolution of 1905. 
Story and Treatment of Action. 

The sailors of the Potemkin have mutinied and killed 
their tyrannical officers. They put in to the port of Odessa, 
which, though held by the White Guards, is full of sym- 
pathetic working-class and bourgeois people, who, after 
sending gifts of food in little sailing ships, throng the huge 
flight of stone steps leading down to the water's edge to 
wave to the distant battleship. 
Plastic Material. 

Major: the steps, the crowd, the White Guards. Detailed: 
(persons), the cripple, the elegant lady with the parasol, 
the children, the mother with the dead child, the nurse, the 
elderly bourgeois lady; (objects), the parasol, the jack- 
boots and rifles of the soldiery, thek shadows on the 
steps, the perambulator, the smashed spectacles on the 
sabred face of the elderly lady. 
Types of Shot. 

Whole range from distant to close-up. 
Location and Cast. 

The steps themselves; the people themselves; a con- 
tingent of the Red Army in the uniform of the Whites. 
Editing or Montage. 

General shots introduce the audience to the crowd on 
the steps facing out into the harbour unconscious of the 
threat to their lives behind them at the top of the long 
wide flight of stone stairs. Individuals involved in the 
subsequent attack are introduced in shots of smiling 
sympathy for the mutinous sailors. Then, with the title 
" Suddenly," the sequence itself opens : 

(a) A series of impressionist shots, some long, some of 

• only a fraction of a second's duration, launches the attack. 

A girl is killed in close-up, her hair falling forward over 

her gaping mouth; a legless cripple heaves himself to 

safety : the parasol of the bourgeois lady falls forward into 


the camera itself. The steps as a background appear at 
different angles as shot follows shot. Distance shots 
alternate with varieties of close-up. One shot shows the 
fleeing crowd from over the back of the line of soldiers 
now advancing steadily down the steps, pausing every so 
often to aim and fire. 

(b) An impressionist scene of three shots of a fraction of 
a second each show the body of a man tipping to fill the 
frame, then falling head and arms forward, then with 
knees caving. Finally a shot lasting two and a half seconds 
shows him splayed over the steps. 

(c) Longer shots alternate between the running crowd and 
the soldiers. Close-ups of various types (worker and 
bourgeois) in attitudes of fear. A bald man clutches his 
head. Then the first important element is introduced : 

(d) The woman and child. She is running down the 
steps with the crowd. The soldiers fire on the crowd; the 
child falls. He screams. The mother realises her child 
has fallen : cut with shots of blood on child's head with 
people still rushing over him. A fpot crushes his hand: 
he is kicked by running feet. The mother's face is stricken 
with horror. She returns to the body of her child : she is 
alone, the crowd below, the soldiers above. She picks up 
the child, and turns to face the camera and the on-coming 
line of soldiers (off-frame). Cut to 

(e) Bourgeois group, harangued by the elderly lady in 
the black dress. " Go, beseech them," she says (title). 
But they are too frightened. .Cut back to 

(/) Shadows of the line of soldiers on the steps. The 
mother is seen once more, side shot over the steps : she is 
advancing, the dead child in her arms, to challenge the 
soldiers. The soldiers are shot from various angles, from 
above, from the front behind the climbing figure of the 
woman. Once more she moves into the frame (right) 
whilst the shadows of the soldiers appear (left) culminating 
in the uplifted sword of the officer. With rifles just visible 
they shoot her down : several shots build up to the climax 
of a close-up. The soldiers descend over the bodies of the 
mother and child. Cut back to 

(g) The fleeing crowds. (The action throughout is pro- 
longed and reduplicated for tragic emphasis. In actuality 

50 FILM 

it would have taken two or three minutes to clear the steps 
and shoot down the people. It plays, however, some six 
minutes on the screen.) The crowd is cut-off at the base 
of the steps by mounted soldiers. The second important 
element appears : 

(A) The nurse and perambulator. Several shots show 
the nurse protecting the perambulator with her own body. 
The jackboots of the soldiers move down with almost 
mincing care, step by step. They fire. The nurse's mouth 
opens in pain. She clutches the buckle on her belt, and 
leans back against the perambulator. Cut from her hands 
slowly covered with the blood from her wounded stomach, 
to the wheels of the perambulator which her falling body 
gradually pushes down the steps ; the action is prolonged 
for emphasis by cutting and recutting. Meanwhile the 
soldiers descend, keeping their neat line, firing precisely. 
The nurse's body is still launching the perambulator on its 
careering journey down the steps. Gradually shot by shot 
it is pushed away. Shot from overhead, from angles side- 
ways, the perambulator goes down the steps, watched by the 
horrified elderly lady, until finally it topples over, throwing 
the child out. The climax approaches in a succession of 
shots mostly of variable duration from one to three seconds. 
All the elements : the crowd, the soldiers, the dead nurse, 
the perambulator, the bourgeois group are built together 
with rapid cutting. The final element arrives. 

(0 The elderly lady faces a soldier. In close-up he 
slashes at her with a sword. In close-up her face, with 
horrid astonishment, is covered with blood behind her 
shattered spectacles. The sequence is over. 

Owing to its difficult economic position, and the enormous 
number of silent projectors which still cannot be replaced by 
sound equipment, Russia was slow to take to the sound film. 
As we shall see later, when the structure of the Soviet Film 
Industry is considered, in 1937 Richard Ford (" Sight and 
Sound," Spring, 1937) tells us there were only three thousand 
sound cinemas for a population of one hundred and sixty million 
as against some thirty-six thousand silent projectors mostly on 
the farms. In any case, the early thirties saw something of a 
crisis between the older and the younger directors. Eisenstein 


absented himself in Mexico. Pudovkin experimented in sound 
in Deserter (1933). The younger directors disliked the aesthe- 
licism of their seniors' work: they preferred straight realism 
and a news-reel technique. Symphonies and montage were 
dead and too much after the fashion of bourgeois art, suitable 
for history rather than for films dealing with the Five Year 
Plans. The great tradition was maintained fleetingly in The 
Road to Life (Ekk), Three Songs of Lenin (Vertov), We from 
Kronstadt (Dzigan) and Deserter (Pudovkin), but the new spirit 
was exemplified with a paean of triumph in Chapaev (Vassiliev 
Brothers). This film seemed and was notable for developing, 
with sound, the personality of a character. It had star-value 
without a star. Its continuity was satisfying and strong, without 
the poetic and rhetorical delays incident upon the symphonic 
tradition of montage. It was bright and fresh and clean and 
realistic. It threw aside the cobwebs of the silent days and 
solved the problem of how to make a good story about a great 
Soviet hero in a realistic but not pedestrian manner. Eisen- 
stein fought an isolated action with the Central Committee of 
the Communist Party of the Soviet Union until he was forced 
to give way and agree to work in the new manner. 

Many films that arrive from Russia today seem pedestrian 
to those who responded to the great days when Russia stood 
alone as a pioneer for filmcraft. Now, with the excellence of 
American and French film (until the war broke up the great 
French school of directors and acting), and the growing import- 
ance of the British cinema, Russia takes its place alongside, 
rather than ahead of, the great film-producing countries. Films 
like The Red Flier and In the Rear of the Enemy are typical of what 
Russian audiences want and get, whilst Son of Mongolia (Trau- 
berg, 1936), The Last Night (Raizman, 1937), Professor Mamlock 
(Menkin and Rappoport, 1939), Alexander Nevski (Eisenstein 
and Vassiliev, 1939), Peter the Great (Petrov, 1939), The New 
Teacher (Gerasimov, 1942) and Shors (Dovzhenko, 1942) show 
that a great tradition can be carried on with collaboration 
between the older and the younger directors. 


Arnheim's book on the film appeared just after the change- 
over to sound was assured, and he was able, therefore, to con- 
sider the problems of sound more carefully than Pudovkin, who 

52 FILM # 

was in the process of working out Deserter. His book empha- 
sises, as we have seen above, the importance of the limitations 
within which the film has to work, and its consequent artistic 
advantages. With great elaboration, which is characteristic of 
the whole book, he works out afresh the principles of montage 
in a long analytical scheme. He then deals with the principles 
of the selection of fit material for the screen, the problems of 
film acting, the mass-produced film and kindred subjects. He 
finally reaches the problem of the sound film itself. 


When sound first arrived in the late twenties it was usually 
amplified from gramophone recordings synchronised with the 
projector. Later the sound track was added to the visual track, 
and the manifold problems of synchronisation were solved. 

The second reaction of the trade, which hung back conserva- 
tively at first, was to jump at this new phenomenon. The house 
with sound*in a provincial town had the pick of the box office 
irrespective of the quality of the picture shown. As long as it 
talked and sang, as long as doors banged and telephones rang, 
the public was happy and the trade scrambled in its wake, 
because a happy public pays easily with its critical faculties 

The discerning film critic, who had watched the gradual 
maturing of the silent film in America, Russia and Germany, 
felt at first lost in a welter of showmanship. Paul Rotha, 
writing at the turn of the decade a book which is full of dis- 
cernment for what had been achieved so carefully in the silent 
days, says : 

" Now the addition of sound and dialogue to the visual 
image on the screen will tend to emphasise its isolated 
significance by reason of the fact that, as the sound and 
dialogue take longer to apprehend than the visual image, 
the duration of time that the shot is held on the screen 
will be determined by the sound and dialogue instead of by 
the assembling. Dialogue, by very reason of its realism, 
represents, real time and not the filmic time of the visual 
image. Obviously this is in direct opposition once more 
to all the dominant factors that have been proved to 
achieve emotional effect by visual images." (Paul Rotha, 
" The Film till Now," p. 307.) 


This was precisely true of the type of film at first produced. 
With the camera trained steadily on the singing fool, the music 
went on and cutting could be and was forgotten. Whole plays 
were transferred to the screen, with the camera following the 
dialogue around the set like a lap-dog terrified of being left 
alone. It was a Repressing return to adolescence and cheap 
effect. The equipment was expensive, and by God it must be 
used, and used it was until the directors and the public wearied 
of it, and decided that, after all, you went to see and not merely 
to hear a film. 

Arnheim and Pudovkin, having time to breathe, set about the 
problems of this new technical gift. It had, after all, certain 
obvious advantages. The break-up of the illusion caused by 
the titles flashed on the screen for as long as it took the slowest 
reader to spell them out could now be forgotten. The film could 
speak for itself. It could also score and reproduce its own 
music. Regardless of its employees, the industry threw thousands 
of cinema musicians on the streets and recorded its own music 
when and how it was needed. The old devices, so interesting 
and so unknown to the public, through which the conductor 
of the cinema orchestra could keep his music linked to the 
visuals on the screen above him, were now no longer necessary. 
The old music libraries, with tunes or movements to match 
all moods, passed from the hands of the cinema conductor 
to his more highly paid colleague in the studio. 

Arnheim's solution was a perceptive one : 

" Sound film — at any rate real sound film — is not a 
verbal masterpiece supplemented by pictures, but a homo- 
geneous creation of word and picture v/hich cannot be 
split up into parts that have any meaning separately. (This- 
is the reason why so little is to be expected of dramatists 
and novelists for sound films.) Even the picture part is 
meaningless alone. Moreover, in general, speech in sound 
film will be much more effective if used as a part of nature 
instead of as an art form. Film speech will have to be 
more lifelike in the same degree as the film picture is more 
like nature than the stage picture." (Arnheim, " Film," 
p. 213.) 

He also recognised that natural sounds were of equal import- 

54 FILM 

ance with speech when the process of artistic selection could be 
brought to bear: 

" For this form of acoustic art there would seem to be 
inexhaustible material — sighs and the sirens of factories, 
the ripple of water and revolver shots, the songs of birds 
and snores — and also the spoken word, as one sound among 
many." (Arnheim, " " Film," p. 216.) 

His recognition of the more transitory nature of sound com- 
pared with light is as profound as it is impbrtant to the full 
understanding of the relation sound should play to sight in the 
well-made film. 

" Light waves and sound waves tell us about the con- 
ditions of things in the world in which we live — what these 
things * are ' and what at the moment they are ' doing.' 
In this manner we arrive without actual contact at a know- 
ledge of these things across space, and actually at a much 
better and more thorough knowledge than is possible by 
the direct process of touch. That is what is called sight 
and hearing. 

44 Only few of the objects in our surroundings are in the 
habit of giving off sounds uninterruptedly. Some do it 
occasionally, most not at all. The sea murmurs unceasingly, 
a dog barks occasionally, a table never 1 makes a sound. 
With the help of light, on the other hand, we can, as long 
as the object exists at all, get information about it. H^nce 
light gives a more complete and therefore more accurate 
picture of the universe than sound. Light gives us the 
4 being ' of things, while sound generally only gives us 
incidental ' doing.' " (Arnheim, " Film," p. 217.) 

The subjects of sound may be roughly classified into speech, 
natural sounds and music. The director can choose at any 
given moment in his script which he is going to use, and which 
will most forcibly and inevitably be the right artistic com- 
bination with the visual image. Just as we have seen that a 
director selects his image with an eye to obtaining the most 
telling visual effect on his audience, so he must select his sound. 
Raymond Spottiswoode in his " Grammar of the Film " gives 
a careful classification of the alternatives that lie before a 


director preparing his shooting script for camera and micro- 
phone : examples will help to clarify these alternatives. 

Scene: A murderer is about to kill a sleeping man with a 
knife. He creeps up behind his victim, and pauses a 
moment to balance himself for the act of stabbing. 

Alternatives for Sound : 

(a) Non-selective, (i) Every noise is included : soft tread 
of feet, heavy breathing of sleeper and any other extraneous 
noise coming from next door, or traffic from the street 

(ii) Only extraneous sound used. Complete quiet as far 
as the screen itself is concerned. Only the sound of the 
traffic outside reproduced without conscious selection. 

(b) Selective, (iii) Selected sounds originating from the 
scene only : breathing of sleeper ; soft tread of feet. 

(iv) Selected sounds from outside the picture itself. 
Cry of man murdered though all we see in the frame is 
the swift flash of the falling knife. 

Artificial though these classifications may seem, they offer 
alternatives along the lines of which a director must decide what 
is right for inclusion and what is wrong. Only by examples of 
what appears to be right selection can one judge the complexity 
of the new opportunities offered to the director sensible of the 
powers of sound. 


1. The Road to Life: (Mezhrabpomfiim, 1931. 

Russian. Director, Nikolai Ekk) 

One of the earliest of Russian sound films, it contained many 
experiments. Under inspired leadership, a band of vagabond 
street boys learn Russian citizenship. They build a railway 
from their Collective' to the city. The halt at the end of the 
journey is gaily decked to receive the first train when the railway 
is opened. The boys' leader, however, is killed on the lonely 
track by a reactionary. The body is placed on the cowcatcher 
of the engine, and the lyrical emotion built up on the completion 
of the track and the maiden voyage of the train is hushed in 
the waiting crowd by the sight of the body as the engine draws 

56 FILM 

slowly in. The sound matches this collective emotion by giving 
only the long dying sighs as the steam escapes slowly from the 
train when it draws to a standstill. Symbolism and natural sound 
are matched. 

2. Kameradschaft : (Nerofilm, 1931 
German. Director, G. W. Pabst) 

A remarkable use of distorted sound occurs after the pitfall. 
The distracted father runs through section after section of the 
empty shafts calling his buried son's name. The voice is 
distorted in the echoes — Georges, Georges — the last syllable 
drawn out into an echo of helpless despair. 

3. Scarface: (United Artists, 1932. 
American. Director, Howard Hawks, with Paul Muni) 

Scarface is a film of murder and callous terror, the first great 
gangster picture. Early in the film the initial murder happens 
in a deserted bar. The visuals alternate between the silent 
victim in a telephone kiosk and the shadow on a white wall of 
a man in a felt hat. The sound of the shot is preceded by tjie 
quiet whistling of a popular tune. After the shot there is 
silence. The shadow moves away and the whistling resumes. 

4. Deserter: (Mezhrabpomfilm, 1931-33. 
Russian. Director, Pudovkin) 

Pudovkin put all his theoretical knowledge into the making 
of this film. In the opening sequence where the visuals are 
grey with fog, he used a rhythm of ships' sirens at varying 
distances: in the shipbuilding sequences he cut his natural 
sounds along with his images. 

" For the symphony of siren calls with which Deserter 
opens I had six steamers playing in a space of a mile and 
a half in the Port of Leningrad. They sounded their calls 
to a prescribed plan and we worked at night in order that 
we should have quiet." (Pudovkin, " Film Technique," 
p. 173.) 

" Perhaps a purer example of establishing rhythm in 
sound film occurs in another part of Deserter — the docks 
section. Here again I used natural sounds, heavy hammers, 


pneumatic drills working at different levels, the smaller 
noise of fixing a rivet, voices of sirens and the crashing 
crescendo of a falling chain. All these sounds I shot on 
the dock-side, and I composed them on the editing table, 
using various lengths, they served to me as notes of music. 
As finale of the docks scene I made a half-symbolic growth 
of the ship in images at an accelerated pace, while the 
sound in a complicated syncopation mounts to an ever 
greater and grandiose climax. Here I had a real musical 
task, and was obliged to 'feel ' the length of each strip in 
the same spirit as a musician * feels ' the accent necessary 
for each note." (Pudovkin, " Film Technique," pp. 

5. Strange Interlude: (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1932. 
American. Director, Robert Z. Leonard) 

This film was based on Eugene O'Neill's play, the technical 
feature of which was that the characters spoke their thoughts 
in full soliloquy whilst taking their part in conversation. The 
film was a better medium than the stage for this device, since 
close-up and unmoving lips gave the spoken thoughts reality. 

6. Nightmail: (G.P.O., 1935. 
British. Director, Basil Wright, with John Watt) 
Special verse by W. H. Auden was used here to run with the 

train through the Scots dawn to Perth. The verse reduplicated 
the rhythm of the train, and the speaker's voice took over from 
the wheels. 

7. Peter the Great: (Lenfilm, Moscow, 1939. 
Russian. Director, Petrov) 
In this film of the Westernisation of the backward Russians 

by Peter the Great, the beautifully recorded church bells, symbol 
of the old way of life, act as a recurrent theme throughout, 
until a climax is reached in the hurling down of the bells with a 
resounding crash when they are required for gun metal. 

8. Citizen Kane: (Mercury Productions, 1941. 
American. Director, Orson Welles) 
This film is remarkable for its use of sound in many sequences. 

Echo is used until the voices are filled out into an unnatural 
hollowness, particularly when the husband and wife draw more 

58 FILM 

and more apart in the vast cavernous rooms of Xanadu. The 
sinister echo emphasises the poverty of the servant's story as 
he conducts the last visitor over the desolate palace. 

9. Mickey's Moving Day (Walt Disney, 1930). 
and many Silly Symphonies : 


10. Listen to Britain: (Crown, 1942. 
British. Director, Humphrey Jennings) 
These films are put together because they make great use 

of natural sounds — Disney's for comic effect, Listen to Britain 
to build up a sound-visual commentary on Britain at war by 
day and night. All have supeTbly complicated sound-tracks 
constructed largely on a symphony of music and natural sounds. 

Some of these examples show the result of careful thought as 
to which particular sounds (or silent periods) will be most 
effective dramatically to prolong the tension and spell-bind the 
audience. Others show the development of natural sounds into 
artificial patterns, or the use of distortions (like echoing sound) 
to develop the atmosphere inherent in the particular situation. 
The possibilities of the dramatic use of sound are endless : they 
depend on the director's integrity of imagination, his common 
sense and his artistic courage in experiment. 

Arnheim has said rightly that the dialogue of sound film must 
be realistic. It is necessary to distinguish between the efficient, 
hundred-per-cent talkie and the real sound film. The film, 
like the drama, consists of its ninety-five-per-cent lowlights and 
its five-per-cent highlights. We do not banish Marlowe, 
Shakespeare, Congreve, Sheridan, Wilde and Shaw from pur 
theatres merely because they knew how to write plays better 
than the four or five hundred dramatists whose names occur in 
the indices of Professor Allardyce Nicoll's histories of drama. 
Moreover, some people, possibly highbrow, would maintain 
that these particular dramatists are popular in their own right 
and are of great importance to the development of the theatre. 
When the one-hundred-per-cent-smash-hit-box-office-money- 
spinners have been enjoyed by us all they are forgotten and 
replaced by kindred superlative mixtures as before. The ones 
that remain in memory are those which occasionally gave up 
talking in order to become films, or, because of some peculiarity 


in their contents (like the films of the Marx brothers), stand 
out from the rubbish-heap of subject-matter which the more 
carrion of scenarists pick over. The Marx brothers, in any 
case, often knew what a film was, and said it in pictures as well 
as in wisecracks. 

This is the reason why Shakespeare and Shaw, undiluted and 
unaltered, cannot become more than hundred-per-cent talkies. 
Admittedly you can see the people talking more clearly, but it 
is a doubtful advantage since the lines were written to be pro- 
jected orally over a distance, and the broad eloquent phrasing 
of great drama is lost in the overpowering visual presence 
of the actor. Many situations in a Shakespeare play, on the 
other hand, would make excellent cinema (Lear driven out on to 
the heath by Fritz Lang, the riots in Rome by Eisenstein, the 
murder of Duncan by Hitchcock), but Shakespeare's words 
would be cut to nothing and his rhythms lost among visual 
silences or natural sounds. Shaw, at first a martinet against 
cutting his lines for film purposes, gave way so that Pyg- 
malion and Major Barbara became partly enjoyable as sound 
films and partly as hundred-per-cent talkie Shaw. It is 
rumoured that if he had nis time over again Shaw would have 
written for films, not for the theatre. He began life as a music 
and art critic: he has a mobile plastic sense and has turned 
theatre technique upside down. But as a critic his eloquence 
sold his ideas to a public unused to hard truth, and his theatrical 
experiments were all made in favour of words and yet more 
words. Would Shaw have had the reticence necessary for the 
screen ? 

American idiom is clipped and pert, insolent and free, 
quickened with imagery and spoken at speed. Good 
American talkies, and they are many, register fast, but they 
shoot a percentage of their dialogue round, not into, the ears of 
4he very un-American British, v who think they speak the same 
language properly through their mouths. But reticence is known 
in American films (the opening of The Long Voyage Home and 
The Grapes of Wrath, sequences in Fury and Scarf ace when the 
visuals are left to sink in on their own), and directors are 
obviously doing their damnedest to get that .camera around even 
whilst the actor does the talking. Comedy particularly — and 
the American rhythm of life and rhythm of tongue lends itself 
to comedy both foolish and satiric — is often an affair of slick 

60 FILM . , 

words, but the skill of the American editor in cutting and con- 
tinuity frequently puts a kick into the dialogue by means of 
scissors and acetate. Comedy is also a matter of situation, 
usually sexual {Her Cardboard Lover, My Two Husbands, Tom, 
Dick and Hafry and a host more excellent stories), and sexual 
situations are frequently as much something to spy upon as 
listen to. Good cinema takes advantage of this, and the film 
is still a box-office draw with a bigger kick through being a 
sure-fire film kick. 

Alexander Korda, who put British film on the critical Ameri- 
can market — still critical — with The Private Life of Henry VIII, 
subsequently allowed the scenario of this film to be published. 
This was in many ways a good film, repaying study. It was a 
model of scripting in the economy and wit of its dialogue, what- 
ever may be said of its history, which is beside the point anyway, 
since it is doubtful if Henry even deserved to have the truth 
said about him. An example from this scenario should illustrate 
the point of keeping the dialogue smart and in its place : 

" Fade-in 

Int. Royal Bedchamber — Morning. 

Scene 1 — Medium Shot. 

Camera shooting towards the bed-hangings, with em- 
broidered corners ' H ' and ' A ' above the bed. Trucking 
back till the camera shows the bed. 

Scene 2 — Medium Shot. 

Camera shooting towards the door of the bedchamber. 
The door opens and the Old Nurse peeps cautiously into 
the room. She enters and beckons to unseen people out- 
side the door. Half a dozen ladies-in-waiting enter. 
They look round the room with great interest. 

Scene 3— Full Shot. 

The young ladies approach the bed, the Old Nurse 
leading them. It is a very exciting adventure for the young 
ladies. When they get near to the bed, the Old Nurse turns 
her head and indicates the bed, as if to say : ' Here it is ! 

Scene 4 — Medium Shot. 

Old Nurse with a very spirited young lady. She follows 
the Old Nurse into the immediate proximity of the bed. 
The Old Nurse smiles at her encouragingly. She is all 
excitement, but speaks at last : 


1st Lady: So that's the King's bed. 

Nurse: Yes, my dear (slips her hand down the bed), 
and he has not long left it — feel ! 

The girl feels the warm sheets. Her eyes are creating a 
picture — there is a tiny pause before she speaks. Other 
girls -now come into the picture, feeling more at ease. 

1st Lady : I wonder what he looks like — in bed. 

2nd Lady: (a rival beauty) You'll never know ! 

1st Lady : (annoyed) Well, there's no need to be spiteful, 
is there, Mistress Nurse ? 

Nurse: (consolingly) No, my dear ; and you've as good 
a chance as another when the King's in one of his merry 

The girls laugh. 

1st Lady: (covered with real or mock confusion) Oh! 
I never meant — I never thought 

2nd Lady : Didn't you, darling ? 

The second lady looks as though she were going to slap 
the other girl's face, but the Old Nurse bustles between 
them to the bed and batches hold of the coverlet. 

Nurse: Now, Ladies ! You're not here to quarrel, but 
to get busy with your needles. 

(Business.) Look — all these ' A's ' must come out, and 
1 J's ' go in. Hurry, Ladies, hurry ! 
Scene 5— Full Shot. 

The young ladies go to work now with all their instincts 
unfettered. They are gathering up the linen, taking down the 
hangings . Suppressed laughter accompanies their whispers . 
Scene 6 — Medium Shot. 

Two young ladies who have not spoken yet, holding the 
embroidered ' H ' and * A ' in their hands. 
Scene 7— Detail Shot. 

The embroidered ' H ' and ' A ' in the young ladies' hands. 
Scene 8 — Medium Shot. 

Back to the young ladies who examine the two letters 

3rd Lady: Anne Boleyn dies this morning. Jane 
Seymour takes her place tonight ! What luck ! 

4th Lady : For which of them ? 

(" The Private Life of Henry VIII," Biro and Wimperis, 

PP. 1-4.) 

62 FILM 

The average British film tends to be heavy-going in com- 
parison with this. We are conscious of our class distinctions 
in a way unknown in America, where the only distinction is rich 
and poor, not school tie and necfcerchief. English films are 
dignified, and our best comedians live off cocking snooks at 
dignity or earning £200 a week at being mates to the working 
classes. English films are wordy, and it took all the charm of 
Leslie Howard with his brilliant phrasing and realistic-eloquent 
delivery to put across in film terms what was written in his scripts. 
Charles Laughton pouts out his dialogue through his superbly 
photogenic lips, but usually ends up with a famous speech or 
Biblical high-spot with all ears glued to theamplifier. The dough 
and starch must be taken out of the dialogue of the better British 
picture — the worst is negligible — for the war has proved us to 
be an alert nation after all, with vigour and art outside our 
public schools and studio drawing rooms. This has been 
shown in the brilliant scripting of Next of Kin, One of our Air- 
craft is Missing, Men of the Lightship, Merchant Seamen, First 
of the Few and In Which we Serve, all of which show the British 
on their mettle and talking tough. • 

Before we can consider the relevant points of film acting 
to which a study of dialogue leads naturally, the importance of 
film music must not be overlooked. 

Many of us will remember the girl (out of the piano endlessly 
playing) in the half-empty silent cinema during the afternoons 
of the twenties, and the films accompanied by full and some- 
times augmented orchestras for the packed houses at night. 
With characteristic Italian musical ingenuity Giuseppi Becce 
compiled a music library called the Kinothek which he began in 
1919 and developed until thousands of pieces were classified 
under headings of mood and playing time. The conductor 
could therefore build up a mosaic or pot-pourri of musical 
fragments to fit the varying tempos and moods of the film, 
taking his cue either mechanically from a visual rhythmonome 
synchronised with the picture or from his own skilled sense of 
what was going on above him on the screen. Silent pictures 
left on the stocks with the coming of sound had similar pot- 
pourris added to them either on records or on the sound track, 
and so were saved from junking before release. 

This type of musical jugglery presupposed that all the music 
did was to underline the action with a parallel musical throb and 


rhythm. The silent screen, except for its high-spots, always 
did seem to lack sound, and the noise of the projectors in any 
case required drowning along with the coughs and cat-calls of 
the untrained cinema audience. In a few rare instances a 
special score was prepared of original music to accompany the 
film, such as Meisel's music for Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin 
when ft was shown in Berlin. But musical acrobatics were the 
rule, with the artiste following the spot-light instead of the spot- 
light tracking the artiste. 

The line of advance was obviously to weld the score into an 
artistic whole with the picture, rather than to use it as a running 
commentary underneath it. This meant time, money and 
imagination. The Russians had the time, the Americans the 
money, and the French the imagination. In this country 
Arthur Bliss added point to the visuals of Wells' and Menzies' 
Things to Come, and the music was subsequently arranged as a 
suite. This music at any rate had the virtue of being composed 
by a distinguished musician to impregnate the visual passages 
in a film for which it was specially intended. It was not a hotch- 
potch of Chopin and Souza alternately lumping the throat and 
swelling the breast of a happily victimised audience. Maurice 
Joubert (distinguished for his work with Rene Clair in Le 
Dernier Milliardaire and Le Quatorze Juillei) writes of film 
music : 

" We do not go to the cinema to hear music. We require 
it to deepen and prolong in us the screen's visual impres- 
sions. Its task is not to explain these impressions, but to 
add to them an overtone specifically different — or else film 
music must be content to remain perpetually redundant. 
Its task is not to be expressive by adding its sentiments to 
those of the characters or of the director, but to be decora- 
tive by uniting its own rhythmical pattern with the Visual 
pattern woven for us on the screen. 

" That is why I believe it to be essential for film music 
to evolve a style of its own." (" Footnotes to the Film," 
P. HI.) 

Kurt London, in his admirable book on " Film Music," 
writes as follows: 

" The musical accompaniment in a film which is a play 

64 FILM 

with little dialogue appears for long stretches at a time to 
play the part played by illustration in silent films. But here 
we have the essential distinction between musical accom- 
paniment in silent and in sound-films : in the latter, there 
are never more than relatively short lengths of film running 
' silent ' an<j having no other sound than the music, whereas 
the whole of a silent film must inevitably be illustrated. 
Sound-films need no illustration, but their music has to be 
the psychological advancement of the action. While, 
therefore, we may characterise silent-film operetta as a 
near approach to dumb show, the music accompanying the 
scenes which are without dialogue in a sound-film is neither 
illustrative nor mimetic. It is an altogether new mixture 
of musical elements. It has to connect dialogue sections 
without friction ; it has to establish associations of ideas 
and carry on developments of thought; and, over and 
above all this, it has to intensify the incidence of climax 
and prepare for further dramatic action." (" Film Music," 
p. 135.) 

Again, examples prove the theory : 

A. Films using theme songs dramatically : 

1. Carnet de Bal: . (Paris Export Film Co., 1937. 
French. Director, Julien Duvivier) 

The waltz is the musical theme of the film. It haunts the 
day-dream of the young widow until it builds into a grand 
symphony of illusion with lovely waltzing images in a pattern 
of luxury. It distorts into regret land lonely thinness as dis- 
illusion sets in, and grows cynically dissonant in the episode 
where the mature woman revisits her former lover, now a 
criminal doctor crazy with epilepsy, in a quayside tenement. 

2. Remous: (H. O. Films, 1934. 
French. Director, Edmond T. Greville) 

The theme love-song, sung at the cabaret with wonderful 
French eroticism by Lyne Clevers, permeates this fundamentally 
erotic film. It is played frequently on the gramophone and is 
used for background and incidental purposes until it becomes 
a leit-motif creeping into the situations in which the characters 


find themselves involved. (See later comment on the incidental 
music at the close of the film.) 

3. L'Atalante: (Gaumont, France, 1933. 

French. Director, Jean Vigo ; Music, Maurice Joubert) 

Jean Vigo died in 1935. He was perhaps the most original 
and promising of the greater French directors. The story is 
the simplest possible — the young skipper of a barge on the Seine 
brings his bride to live on the boat : she is cramped and ambitious 
for city life even in the docks and slums of Paris where eventually 
the barge arrives. A momentary quarrel and she is gone. The 
separated couple yearn for each other (and at its climax the 
treatment becomes surrealist). They are eventually brought 
together again by the grotesque half-mad ship's mate, brilliantly 
played by Michel Simon. As for the realism of the film, the 
documentary producer, John Grierson, said he could have found 
his way about this barge blind drunk on a wet night ; and the 
surrealists claim part of the film as psychologically theirs. 
Joubert's music, basically a theme song, appears as leit-motif 
throughout the film, and distorts into dominance as the separated 
lovers dream of each other as though they were searching 
eternally in a vast sea, swimming under water. 

B. Films using music incidentally : 

1. Things to Come: (London Films, 1935. 
British. Director, William Cameron Menzies) 

Arthur Bliss composed music for this film which was later 
arranged as a suite and recorded by Decca. The music was 
used for bridging the episodes, and underlining some of the 
i^ore spectacular actions (such as the sequences dealing with 
the declaration of war, mobilisation and the subsequent pestil- 
ence and devastation of the civilised world). The music is 
impressionist and closdy linked with the atmosphere created 
by the images. 

2. My Two Husbands: (Columbia, 1940. 
American. Director, Wesley Ruggles) 

This is the type of comedy in which the Americans are at 
their best. It is chosen as typical of many. It is good through- 
out, and uses music for comic emphasis when the quarrel 
between husband and wife is at its height, and he boldly stalks 
F.— 3 

66 FILM 

along to a marching tune to settle the matter on the spot, only 
to be thrown out defeated with the tune distorted. • 

3. Remous: (H. O. Films, 1934. 
French. Director, Edmond T. Greville) 

The final suicide of the paralytic husband in the face of his 
wife's sacrifice of her lover to devote herself to him, is anticipated 
in the heavily charged atmosphere of the final sequences. This 
anticipation is confirmed by the ominous staccato „throb of the 
strings which starts almost imperceptibly and leads up to. the 
climax of the shot itself, which is heard while the camera dwells 
on the emotion of the wife in another room from that in which 
the suicide is happening. The terrific sense of tension is 
undoubtedly impregnated by the subconscious effect of this 
special score, which might well escape conscious notice in the 
strength of the visual action. 

4. Deserter: (Mezhrabpomfilm, 1931-33. 
Russian. Director, Pudovkin ; Music, Shaporin) 

Music is used ironically in this film when a policeman on 
point-duty appears to direct the large cars filled with somnolent 
capitalists to the tune of a waltz. At the climax of the action 
Pudovkin counterpoints by playing triumphant music through- 
out whilst the strikers surfer temporal defeat, the music empha- 
sising the spiritual triumph of the action which is visually 

" The course of the image twists and curves, as the 
emotion within the action rises and falls. Now, if we use 
music as an accompaniment to this image we should open 
with a quiet melody, appropriate to the soberly guided 
traffic ; at the appearance of the demonstration the music 
would alter to a march; another change would come at 
the police preparations, menacing the workers — here the 
music would assume a threatening character; and when 
the clash came between workers and police — a tragic 
moment for the demonstrators— the music would follow 
this visual mood, descending ever further into themes of 
despair. Only at the resurrection of the flag could the 
music turn hopeful. A development of this type would 
give only the superficial aspect of the scene, the undertones 


of meaning would be ignored ; accordingly I suggested to 
the composer (Shaporin) the creation of a music the 
dominating emotional theme of whidh should throughout 
be courage and the certainty of ultimate victory. From 
beginning to end the music must develop in a gradual 

growth of power What role does the music play here ? 

Just as the image is an objective perception of events, so 
the music expresses the subjective appreciation of this 
objectivity. The sound reminds the audience that with 
every defeat the fighting spirit only receives new impetus to 
the struggle for final victory in the future." (Pudovkin, 
" Film Technique," pp. 163-4, 164-5.) 

5. Citizen Kane: (Mercury Productions, 1941. 
American; * Director, Orson Welles) 

The music in the opening sequence as the camera glides up 
the ironwork, of the Kane palace builds the atmosphere as 
macabre and terrifying. It continues to build with the images 
up to the climax of the sequence as the crystal rolls from the 
dead man's hand and crashes splintering on the floor with the 
last word " rosebud " declared from Kane's dying lips. It is 
interesting that a similar use of music building terror and tension 
is used behind Orson Welles' commentary to an American 
documentary on tank production for the Mediterranean and 
Russian fronts. 


Film acting is fortunately a controversial subject. The first 
point of controversy has already been put by Pudovkin in 
a previous quotation dealing with the dictatorship of the 
director-editor. The actor is so much plastic material in the 
hands of the only man who knows how the film is to emerge 
from the studio to the projection room. On the other hand, 
how does this match up with the legend of Garbo and Dietrich, 
and the work of the independents like Howard, Laughton and 
the French school of directors? So much has to be disen- 
tangled from the blurb of publicity and the personal silence of 
most stars and directors. ^ ' 

The second point of controversy arises in the problem of 
whether the star is acting in the film, or whether the film is 
merely a vehicle for a star's peculiar and limited talent. The 

68 FILM 

third issue turns on the colossal salaries earned by people with- 
out special acting talent but with an ability to look well and 
dress well in all situations. 1 

The simplest issue is the last. Its social importance will be 
discussed later. Its importance to the present argument is 
merely to state once and for all its truth. A proportion of 
stars, but only a proportion, are good-lookers with or without 
clothes, and normal men and women will pay to go and see 
them because it is pleasant to see as much as you can of good- 
looking women and handsome men. There should be no 
controversy here on the matter of acting. These people are 
asked to parade through certain situations before making their 
bow and collecting their contract money, and they are sold by 
their publicity allocation as actors and actresses instead of 
highly paid exponents of beauty and clothes-wear. Their work 
is not relevant to any study of screen acting, but their existence is 
of great importance to a study of the social effect of the screen. 

The first issue cannot be resolved in words. The* relationship 
between director and actor in the film is far more complex than 
between producer and actor on the stage. It is always pointed 
out, quite rightly, that the stage actor has a run for his money 
that the film actor has not. His work is progressive. He begins 
at the beginning and ends at the end. His sense of acting 
climax is never thwarted. Unless he is hopelessly sunk in his 
own part at the expense of his colleagues, he has almost as good 
a sense of the development of the play as a whole as his producer 
in front. The film actor has only this sense of continuity in 
theory, since he can never act his part through from beginning 
to end except in imagination, or over the conference table (if 
he is allowed there, as he may well never be). The director is 
the admitted co-ordinator of the actors' work, with the con- 
tinuity girl killing the details. Shot topside up and sideways 
round, the actor is hurled from moment to moment in an order 
dictated by floorspace and technical considerations. After 

1 The scale of this is described by Jan Gordon in " Star-dust in Holly- 
wood" (p. 157) which covers the last days of silent cinema : 
44 Making the roughest of guesses at figures, we may say that there 
are some thirty or forty magnates making perhaps £50,000 a year, 
with some four hundred principal stars at £20,000 and upward, 
one hundred supervisors at £20,000, three hundred directors at 
£10,000, five hundred experts, of varying degrees, at £50,000 and 
upward, and so on." ^ 


having died, he proceeds to live ; after marriage, he starts in to 
earn his engagement, because the floor-space occupied by the 
church is required for another show. High-lit and howled at 
he is the victim of James Dunne combined with all the surrealists, 
and it is small wonder that he earns enough in a year to keep 
him a life-time and usually retires early in life to the order and 
calm of the divorce courts. 

Pudovkin calls him plastic material, and it sounds true. But 
where are the signs of all this turmoil in the faces of Shearer, 
Dietrich and Garbo, in the eyes of Bette Davis, the mouth of 
Laughton and the pipe of Howard ? How did Fonda ever get 
into pictures ? Why do intelligent and sane stage actors like 
Donat stay In them when there is reasonably good money in 
the theatre ? 

The answer is compromise, skill and patience. The cinema 
is a hard industry seeking hard cash. Where money changes 
hands orders are given, and dismissal awaits around the corner. 
But as against this, actors capable of imaginative survival of 
the racket are rare and hard to come by, and without them there 
would be no money to change in financiers' hands. So com- 
promise ensues, and the stars themselves gain the power and 
influence to answer back to capital on their own account. They 
may also make friends with their directors. 

The screen, like the stage, cannot let the technician banish 
the temperament. But the stars must control their tempers to 
co-operate with the technicians. The true answer to the 
problem is that where there is co-operation and understanding 
between star, director and technician there is greater likelihood 
of artistic achievement. 

The secret of screen acting is the secret of the imaginative 
use of realism and of the quality of detail which accompanies 
the magnification of the screen. The Americans and the French 
have understood this best in the build-up of a hard core of 
acting tradition. It requires imagination and great self-disci- 
pline of body and face to enact subjective feeling in terms of 
minute objective changes of expression and attitude. Yet this 
is what the real artists of cinema acting can do. They observe 
and reproduce the small things. The stage actor, working 
through space, observes and reproduces the larger movements. 
For people who like definitions to remember, it might be said 
that the stage actor, for the most part, acts in the major key, 

70 FILM 

whilst the film actor, for the most part, plays in the minor. 
Both may effectively reverse the process to obtain certain given 
effects, but the main part of their work must be conceived in 
these ways. 

To understand this one must watch for the details of acting 
technique. You will see them in the eyes and hips of Bette 
Davis, the mouth and hands of Laughton, the eyes of Howard 
(they were sometimes a little too rhetorical), the eyes of Jouvet 
(whose body is nearly always stiff and still), the repressed 
expressionlessness of Raimu, venose body is his only eloquence, 
the walk of Fonda and the poetic realism of his hesitant voice, 
the smile of Spencer Tracy, the differing sensuous qualities of 
face in Garbo and Dietrich (watch the lighting which accentu- 
ates this), the commonplace handsomeness of Gabin. It is 
difficult to tell where acting stops and the plastic properties of 
face and body begin. The great stars all have plastic faces, full 
of vitality however controlled, and with great photogenic 
qualities. Just so far the director is the master. Just so far the 
actor. The two main issues merge into one, after all. 

There is one further point which requires its place in the 
argument. Men of the great acting quality of Laughton and 
Howard are often accused of being themselves at the expense of 
their parts. It must be recognised that despite make-up and 
lighting,* the range that a film-jactor can cover is relatively less 
than that of the stage actor, where broader lines of make-up and 
bodily transformation are required. A man is often chosen 
for his first lead because he has the right face and physique for 
the part : Laughton made his film name as Henry VIII. There- 
after he passed through a series of parts for all of which his 
physique and remarkable face were of great plastic value. He 
has great versatility within his own range — Henry VIII, Rem- 
brandt, Bligh, Ginger Ted, Ruggles, all different and yet the 
same photogenic Laughton mannerisms in all. Howard varied 
still less, but his audiences loved his quiet, superior, confident, 
kindly charm. These actors have a great film manner and the 
technique to plant it. 

But there are actors and actresses — I would suggest Bette 
Davis for America, Raimu for France and Robert Donat for 
Britain — who transcend their film manners and charming person- 
alities for something more. They raise the issue as to what 
constitutes great acting anywhere, on stage or screen. It is the 


power to bring objective life in voice, face and body to any 
character with which their imagination can come to grips. It 
is *also the power to say Yes when they know this can be done, 
and No when the character they are asked to portray fails to 
set the process of their imagination to work. Beyond this, 
little of value can be said, except watch and choose your names. 


" But as soon as speech came in the cinema changed its 
character. It became, it is, and it remains realistic." 
(Maurice Joubert.) 
/ "If you want your art made realistic, 

Then see a film; it takes the biscuit." (Anon.) 
" The creative treatment of actuality." (Grierson.) 

And so on. Everyone has said it sometime. And yet the 
film retains Disney, the Marx brothers, Rene Clair, Boris 
Karloff and many sights which ought not to be realistic even if 
they look it. 

T. E. Mulme in his book " Speculations " has written that 
there is an eternal antagonism in all the arts between realism 
and formalism — the urge to make the arts look like life (realism) 
and the urge to make the arts look like art (formalism). Yet 
both of these different artistic attitudes are born of a like attitude 
to the chaos of experiences which is life itself. The realist looks 
at experience steadily and records it with a view to analysis in 
the process (later Greek sculpture, Leonardo da Vinci, much of 
Shakespeare, Goya, Balzac, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Joyce, Proust, 
the French, Russian and American film tradition). The 
formalist rejects actuality as such except in so far as he can 
create a permanent form of beauty from it which he may eter- 
nalise in the still processes of art and literature (early Greek, 
Etruscan and early medieval sculpture, much of Shakespeare, 
much negro art, much Eastern art, much great music, the 
German silent cinema, the sets of art directors of many other- 
wise realistic films, 1 the symphonic element in Pudovkin and 

1 For instance, in a fine, tough, ultra-realistic racketeering film, 
The Glass Key, the art director allows a beautiful symphony of shadows 
on the wall when the faithful friend visits his political boss in a back 
room at the attorney's office where he is held on suspicion of murder, 
Art for art's sake, yes sir. 

72 FILM 

Hulme goes on to say that certain periods in civilisation 
prefer the one attitude to art, some the other. This is by main 
tendency only : civilisation cannot be bounded by the nutshell 
of a generality, and there is always a fellow in an attic or a 
dungeon doing the other thing to prove the historian wrong. 
Shakespeare did both with perfect ease : he was old-fashioned 
medievalist and Renaissance modernist at once and so gets the 
best of both worlds and pleases everybody prepared to be 
pleased at all. 

Our present cycle of civilisation is realistic by tendency, but 
with a strong leaning to formalism to keep the realists awake. 
There is no date to give for the start of this cycle except to say 
it began before Shakespeare's time. The realist's urge (to see 
life steadily, to see it whole, to analyse society and the functions 
of mankind) began once more witn the Renaissance. Against 
reactions spiced with romanticism, peppered with idealism, 
intoxicated by mysticism or stiffened by dogma, the divine 
curiosity has stood boldly for liberty of speech and enquiry 
from the voice of Milton to the voice of Shaw. 

From the point of view of the subjects and treatment expected 
of films by the modem audience, realism is undoubtedly the 
fundamental attitude. However spiced by the impossible, the 
audience expects the film it pays to see to bear a resemblance 
to the life it lives, or to be like its conception of the life it 
thinks the other fellow lives. The film of escape must 
always be the film of credible escape, and audiences look 
askance and a little lost when faced with films like the abstract 
sections of Fantasia, because these, however beautiful, belong 
to a world which rarely impinges on the breadwinner and 
his family. 

The industrial revolution stole the last remnants of beauty 
out of formalised living. Life, never very clean, grew dirtier, 
and even the rich and leisured had to become aware of the 
dangers of another sort of revolution. The study of social 
welfare by the leisured class grew proportionately, and some 
positive achievements were contributed by the acts of social 
amelioration made in the Parliaments of the nineteenth century. 
Dickens wrote his novels just in time for the middle class to 
read them with a realistic eye. 

The film took up the social theme early in its life. Barely 
twelve years after its start it was making Birth of a Nation and 



intolerance. Both were three hours long. The first dealt with 
he colour problem in America. The second showed the spirit 
>f Intolerance as an evil destroying the great achievements of 
nankind. " Serious-minded people visited the pictures for the 
irst time. This was something to be reckoned with. 

Although the cinema has not wholly shirked its responsibility 
in showing the broader movements of history to the world, it 
prefers on the whole the more obvious attractions of a story and 
a. personality. It produced in silent days The Covered Wagon 
on the epic scale and the great French picture La Passion de 
Jeanne d'Arc as a serious contribution to history, but it is more 
likely to build up its historical personalities round those of the 
stars who play them. It is more fun to see Fonda as Abe 
Lincoln and Laughton as King Henry than to see a scholar's 
dummy. With history as entertainment, a long line of titles 
could be produced with the stars shining bright in historical circles. 

For realism means real people, honest, four-square, lovable, 
hateful, unambiguous people. Personality, character, individ- 
uality, unusual careers, go-getting, living, loving and dying, 
these are the staple interests of a realistic age. Along with it 
comes an interest in occupations, jobs, social backgrounds. 
Films not about high society are usually about people with a 
provincial occupational background, gangsters, actresses, bar- 
men, dancers, shop-keepers, policemen, taxi-drivers, engine- 
drivers, soldiers, sailors, airmen, schoolmarms, nurses, doctors, 
miners, bankers, racketeers, businessmen, detectives, inventors, 
musicians and writers. Though the story may not much concern 
their occupations, none the less it is good to know the girl 
marries a man with a job. However foolish, melodramatic, 
dull or thrilling the action may be, realism is the order of the 
day from an audience's point of view. 

This is not to deny that the film as a technical medium is 
suited to the fantastic. The most convincing dragon seen by 
human eye was probably the elaborate model in the German film 
Siegfried which lost its illusion only when its belly ripped like 
canvas against the warrior's sword. A film ghost is a guaranteed 
ghost since it is photographically a true one. The film can make 
all things credible, including traffic running backwards and cars 
running up walls. Harold Lloyd's film Safety Last was a 
success, not because everyone did not realise it was all a trick, 
but because it was so difficult not to believe in its truth, after all 

74 FILM 

The film has been a playground for fantasy from the star 
when Melies of France went star-gazing on the moon. Ever 
since then ghosts and day-dreams, visions of pasteboard heaven! 
and plaster hells have counteracted the steady stream of realisrr 1 
pouring out of the studios. On the whole it is a poverty-stricker 
mysticism — the sort of thing you cannot take a child to sec 
because it is too like goblins in the dark. Mixed with a spurious^ 
religious content came films like Dante's Inferno, The Four 
Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Earthbound, and in more recent 
times the sort of thing that disgraced The Great Mr. Handel. 
With that dash of puerility which seems to lurk in the most 
sophisticated film executive/ you may at any time find yourself 
affronted with the primitive visions of religious mania dictated 
between telegrams into a dictaphone. 

But the film remains the expert medium for fantasy — because 
it is so realistic. Seeing is believing even in The Invisible Man. 
The truer regions of fantasy lie not in the easy technique of 
superimposed images, but in the fantastic approach to life found 
in the films of Clair, the Marx brothers and Walt Disney. ' The 
peculiar genius of Clair flourished only in his native prance : the 
Marx brothers have broken up the party. Only Disney remains. 

Rene Clair began his film life at the age of twenty-five in 1923. 
He mingled his interest in absurdity and the fantastic {Entr'acte 
and Paris qui dort) with an interest in that early French experi- 
mental school called the avant-garde, which played around with 
the camera and the scissors. It was perhaps- peculiarly French 
that the logic of the reductio ad absurdum of camera work 
should be developed in France while the same studies in Russia 
were directed to the ends of propaganda. The advantages of 
the avant-garde movement were the advantages of freedom to 
do what you liked as you looked for material to put through 
the gate of the camera. The disadvantages were that the move- 
ment was experimental without direction, and on the whole 
had nothing to say. Being experimental you had to stop that 
way, and when you were short of ideas you made your material 
interesting by shooting upside down or at an angle at which 
no one could recognise what you were after. 

It is easy to criticise avant-garde now, just as it is easy for 
middle-age with cash to criticise the antics of youth without 
it. It produced many fine directors for the sound period, and 
was to the same immeasurable degree responsible, no doubt, for 


le fine spirit of independence which was the glory of the French 
inema until Fascism blacked-out the screen, and jack-booted 
enius to territories where it could be free but no longer 

Clair, nurtured in this different spirit of cinema, produced 
is first distinguished film on French life in The Italian Straw 
[at where he pillories the bourgeois eighteen-nineties with 
lerciless glee under the pretence of filming a farce by Labiche. 
ous les Toits de Paris was one of the earliest of sound films, 
sleased in 1930, and shown rather later in England! With a 
lemorable theme song, the first line of which was the title of 
le film (how memorable and emotionally apt these French 
aeme songs are: I can still hum the tunes from Sous les Toits, 
"Atalante and RemOus after all these years), Sous les Toits was 
salism transfigured into a world made by the imagination of 
Lene Clair, a bolt from the solid earth of the tenements back 
d the blue of joy and tears and laughter. There were horror 
nd an atmosphere of a different kind in the fight with knives 
i the misty light of the railway embankment : an early use of 
xperimental sound. There was gay fantasy in Le Million with 
:s background of the exaggerated passions of the opera-stages, 

glorious setting for true-love, and the magnificent chase for the 
oat which ends up as a football match on the stage and in the 
vings of the theatre. (Did the Marx brothers see this before 
tiaking A Night at the Opera 1) Then follows the grimmer 
antasy of A Nous la Liberte with the workers' lovely paste- 
board paradise into which they escape from the ballet of the 
actory belt. Thte fantasy of mass production culminates in the 
ollapse of social formality as the crowd breaks up to scramble 
or banknotes and dances hilariously through the factory in 
;reat streams of movement to a climax of music and montage, 
"lair has the heart of Chaplin and the social destructiveness of 
he Marx brothers combined. (Did Chaplin see A Nous la 
Jberte before making Modern Times'}) Le Quatorze Juillet, 

beautiful and restrained film, cannot be regarded as fantasy 
ike its predecessors, and his last film before leaving France, 
le Dernier Milliardaire, is more in the tradition of theatrical 
mrlesque. After that a decline in grace if not in prestige set 
a with the unsuitable The Ghost goes West, shot in England, 
nd his subsequent work in America. A French critic writing 
fter Le Dernier Milliardaire says : 

76 FILM 

" If the future brings him back to imaginary worlds anc 
music, bittersweet romance, ballets of lovemaking anc 
anxious lovers we shall forgive him. It would be foolish 
to try to put limits on what he may do. 

" He was the only film man in France whose work dis- 
played both purpose and progress. There is no other such 
group of films as these, apart from the work of Chaplin, 
Eisenstein and Pabst. His delicately shaded style with its 
thin but strong line suggests far more than it actually shows. 
Clair is one of the very rare directors of whom it can be 
said that their films gain by being seen twice and cannot 
be understood until that second time, like certain music 
and poetry." (Bardeche, " History of the Film," p. 334.) 

After his more recent work, the unique earlier films must be 
reseen to be believed. And tliey should be reseen. 

Into a world of pomp and circumstance, the Marx brothers 
burst like a wind of relief. They represent all the things one 
was brought up not to do, but wanted to do. They take the 
place to pieces with steady glee. They dress like nothing on 
earth except that their clothes are recognisable in bits and pieces. 
Groucho wears a painted moustache which no one in the film 
dreams of querying ; he moves with the assured insolence of a 
ballet dancer who cannot stop dancing off-stage. Every gesture 
is an act of impertinence ; he makes love like a panther, and all 
women are his prey. He is the great charlatan who when he 
goes takes the door with him. He would take the kick off a 

Harpo is mad until you see he is sane. A harp softens him 
into a smile and a sense of the people around him. He is a 
musician who goes mad in his off-time. His wisecracks are 
gestures. Master of impulse, dressed like the Mad Hatter, he 
chases a girl before he can see her : he knows his type at psychic 
speed. Destructive, happy, unfailing and unflinching, he 
removes the piano from the wires* and plays sweet music to 
please himself. And then he smiles at children and negroes 
and simple people who can be happy as he is happy with a harp. 

Chico is the nearest sanity. He stands in the middle between 
Harpo and Groucho and leads them on. He can play the piano 
and knows it. He has a mischievous finger on the keys which 
nobody trained but himself. If he had not existed in the Marx 


family, it would have been necessary to invent him. He keeps 
:he peace and gives Groucho his lead into wisecracks. He 
looks like a man selling ice-cream at the Opera, at the races, 
anywhere except the place where ice-cream should be sold. 

Straight from music-hall to film, the Marx brothers do not 
:are a dime about the camera. They treat it like Margaret 
Dumont, though they know they cannot do without it. Groucho 
tracks the audience through it. They fill the frame with 
struggling bodies in a ship's cabin. They stick it in front of 
them while they wisecrack to each other or at their victims. 

Their wisecracks are in the quickest American tradition, and 
leave the gangsters slow. After a time they let romance in 
through the back door in order to give the audience a rest. 
Even Marx brothers sleep and eat. But the romance leaves 
something to be desired. Now the team has finished, only the 
romance is left. And they left Clair and Chaplin to make the 
films about Fascism and mass production. Their climax should 
have been to take the Reichstag to pieces and peel the moustache 
from Hitler's face. 

Disney provides a folklore for the modern world. We are 
still a primitive people, but our fears and hopes follow a different 
line from the remaining races oil the globe whom we call primi- 
tive to distinguish them from ourselves. Our fears are the 
rent-collector and landlord, the job that is too complicated, 
machinery that goes wrong and clothes that are too tight, and 
the absence of money. Our hopes are the pretty girl and the 
cottage, a faithful dog, friendship, good food and good pay. 
Our metaphysics are the principle of evil which goes from the 
instinct to bully via Hitler to the big bad wolf himself, knd to his 
partisans the looming spider and the fabulous witch. Innocence 
is pink like a baby or a pig or anything young and exposed to 
evil. The average man in this world of good and evil is Mickey 
Mouse who knows a thing or two once he has been bitten. 
The lesser sins of sloth and boastfulness are in a dog and a duck. 
The wise expert on life, remote, watchful, helpful if you handle 
him right, is a crow or an owl or a cricket. The whole thing 
is common sense, common decency and a weather-eye on the 
world at large. 

Into this simple philosophy of things, Disney brings a wealth 
of technical virtuosity and rhythmic dexterity. His timing is 
unique. So is his sense of sound, which is used for every con- 

78 FILM 

ceivable comic effect. Because of the relative flatness of h 
earlier images he was the first director to use colour with effec 
His film factory is shown with all its elaboration in The Reluctai 
Dragon. It is amazing that Disney's simple philosophy, whic 
is everyman's philosophy, has survived this astonishing mas 
production, with its graded artists and technical elaboratior 
Perhaps it is symptomatic of a better world to come in a machin 

Disney's films are not made for children. The people wh< 
objected that the witch in Snow White was unsuitable wer 
probably frightened themselves. Fright and terror exist in thi 
world, whether under gangsters' lights or fascists' whips. Thes 
things are terrible, and there are corresponding experiences ii 
Disney's folklore. In an early Disney a huge black spide 
crawls with beastly lust over a little dwarfed town. The Sovie 
war posters represent Hitler this way. 

Many of Disney's one-reelers, and much of Fantasia, are jus 
technical tour de force, but Disney knows when to stop an< 
let humanity in. He knows that a man likes to take his watcl 
to bits to see how it works, but he also knows that the same mar 
would rather have his watch going when he sets out to meet hi 
girl. Audiences love the huge swirling movements, the lovel\ 
coloured distortions, the fantastic reductions of the animal bod\ 
to absurdity, the plops and bangs and whangings of anthropo- 
morphised machinery. They love the rhythmic give and take 
between sound and image. It is all great fun with a technica 
medium which seems to put no stop to the acrobatics of sight 
and sound. But Disney's greatest achievement still remains 
his creation of a people's folklore, not untainted with senti- 
mentality, but full of laughter and energy and defeat of the 
devil. The wheels of the imagination run backwards to a 
stand-still when the news comes on the screen after the Disne„y. 

The movie camera lends itself to puppets and moving cut- 
outs. Most- audiences have seen Georg Pal's puppets, if only 
when they advertised Philips' Radio or Ovaltine. They are no 
more than pleasant and amusing. With an altogether more 
delicate technique Lotte Reiniger cut out her paper figures and 
added depth to their antics by filming their backgrounds through 
shelves of glass. Disney also uses different levels of background 
to get his mysterious qualities of perspective in such films as 
Fantasia. Lotte Reiniger, who was shocked when she arrived 


in this country because the Censor would not let her put teats 
on a cow, makes films of a comedy Period order ; the figures 
bob and dance in beautiful silhouette. 

A single film stands out as a work of art in the medium of the 
serious drawn film: this is Uldee, by Berthold Bartosch with 
music by Honegger, a film banned in this country because of its 
passionate communism and devastating attack on capital and 
clericalism. It plays about half an hour, and is a moving 
experience which can be seen and reseen both for its action 
and its magnificent draughtsmanship. 

LTdee : (Scenario, Direction, Photography, Berthold Bartosch. 
France, 1930-34. Based on Woodcuts by Frans Masereel. 

Music, Arthur Honegger.) 

Theme: The rich and powerful fear the aspect of truth. They 
buy the Church and Courts of Justice to enslave truth and rob 
it of its uncompromising nakedness. Even the poor reject 
truth in the blindness of their slavery, though the cause of truth 
is theirs. 

Treatment: Truth is represented as a nude woman, the Idea 
which comes to every creative artist. The film begins with 
flowing revolving nebulae from which is born the naked luminous 
figure of the woman. A worker receives her in diminished 
form, and carries her in an envelope as a message to the capitalist 
figures, who fall away shocked even at her diminutive nakedness. 
They clothe her. She is judged by an Ecclesiastical Court, who 
examine her only to clothe her again. She passes through the 
city in search of her interpreter, crossing over the old Pont- 
Neuf-like bridge of tradition and wealth to the iron bridge 
symbolic of industrialism. She meets the worker once more. 
Against an industrialised background of smoke and furnace 
she addresses the workers through her interpreter. He is 
arrested, and tried with only the Figure as his protector and 
guide. He is executed. The workers carry him with long 
jerky movements in a rough coffin to htis grave, where he is 
interred with only the luminous Figure of Truth to watch over 
him. A professor attempts to measure her, but she bursts the 
bonds his theory would impose upon her. Then she finds her 
medium in the workers' Press. A capitalist wonders how to 
enslave her: he hopes to buy the Church. He squeezes coins 
from the dwarf workers in his grasf> : but explosions and harsh 

80 FILM 

music result. The march of soldiers counter-flows against the 
march of workers. Over the soldiers moves the symbol of 
money: Truth moves over the advancing workers. They 
clash. The workers die to harsh high music. Like Venus 
Aphrodite, Truth rises from the blood and slain flesh of the 
people, and the march of the soldiers counter-flows with the 
funeral march of the coffined dead. The symbol of the Church 
debased by money fades before the fiery outline of Truth itself, 
which merges back once more into the flowing revolving nebulae 
of ultimate being. 

All these pictures are off the main stream of realistic cinema. 
About six hundred feature-length films were released in this 
country each year between 1935 and the war. Of these not 
half a dozen could be classified as fantasy in the proper sense 
of that term. Though most films are films of escape, they are 
not presented as fantasies, and other problems arise as to their 
effect on their audiences. These problems will occupy us in 
the second part of this book. 


The film has evoked three main types of writing: trade 
gossip ; publicity and fan news ; documentary theory. Docu- 
mentary began in England at about the time avant-garde left 
off in France. It had the advantage of Russian and French 
experiment behind it, and it had sound film in front of it. It 
had no lurid past in silent days, only the fine Secrets of Nature 
series and the Russian cutting of Drifters and one or two lesser 
films like Rien que les hemes and Berlin. The field was almost 
clear, for America was too interested in box-office to start a 
school in so unpromising a sphere, and the French avant-garde 
was too sunk in aestheticism to invent documentary. Only 
the director of Finis fence came near it, working, like the solitary 
and romantic film-traveller Flaherty, on remote material with 
superb results. 

If anyone can be said to have invented documentary, it was 
John Grierson. The other names in early British documentary 
which stand for a solid career — Paul Rotha, Basil Wright, Alberto 
Cavalcanti, Harry Watt, Edgar Anstey, Arthur Elton — stemmed 
from his leadership. Cavalcanti and Rotha belong to the same 
generation as Grierson, who was born in 1898. The others are 
mostly younger. 


Grierson was an academic who graduated in philosophy at 
Glasgow University after spending the best part of the last war 
on auxiliary patrol and mine-sweeping in the Navy. After 
graduating he went to America on a Rockefeller Research 
Fellowship in Social Science. There he studied the effect of 
press, radio and no doubt the film on public opinion. On his 
return he joined the staff of the Empire Marketing Board, and 
bought a movfe-camera to make Drifters on the Russian model. In 
1933-34 E.M.B. was disbanded, but not until Grierson had made 
a film unit out of it and caused it to sponsor such films as 
Granton Trawler (Edgar Anstey), Aero-Engine (Arthur Elton), 
Industrial Britain (Flaherty), Lancashire at Work \ and Play 
(Donald Taylor) and O'er Hill and Dale, Windmill in Barbados 
and Cargo from Jamaica (Basil Wright), so increasing the 
documentary family with a rich intake of young directors. 
Sir Stephen Tallents, who had originally got Grierson his job 
at E.M.B., was now at the G.P.O., and Grierson took his unit 
over and joined the. Post Office. The G.P.O. Film Unit was 

Grierson worked as best he could, and the G.P.O. gave him 
the widest possible latitudes in subject-matter and style. The 
Post Office with all its international ramifications could hardly 
fail to be a satisfying source of material for a time. New 
names appeared in the documentary family: Stuart Legg (Tele- 
phone Workers, Cable Ship, Coming of the Dial, B.B.C. the 
Voice of Britain), Evelyn Spice (Weather Forecast), Harry Watt 
(Six-Thirty Collection, Night Mail); and one adoption, Alberto 
Cavalcanti (SOS Radio Service). 

Public relations began to brighten. Evidently there was 
something in films. They might seem expensive, but they were 
enteiprising, and the result was often good to look at and 
flattering to progressive industries. You could always get people 
together to see a film. Arthur Elton made a documentary on 
radio gramophones (The Voice of the World) for the Gramo- 
phone Company, London. Marion Grierson worked for the 
Travel Association. Paul Rotha joined Gaumont-British 
Instructional to make Contact for Imperial Airways, Rising Tide 
on the dock extensions at Southampton and the interdependence 
of Empire trade, Shipyard for the Orient Shipping Line, and 
The Face of Britain on the natural and scientific planning of 
Britain for the use of the respective powers of coal and electricity. 

82 FILM 

The Ministry of Labour commissioned Arthur EJton to make a 
film on the working of an Employment Exchange, which became 
Workers and Jobs. The Ministry of Agriculture through E.M.B. 
sponsored Spring Comes to England (Donald Taylor). Basil 
Wright made the superb Song of Ceylon for the Ceylon Tea . 
Propaganda Board. 

• All this by 1936; and the movement was to swell beyond 
compass or record by the time the war began. This was un- 
doubtedly to be the contribution of Britain to world film. On 
what assumptions was it based ? 

From the earliest days of the movie-camera it had been set 
up in front of real events as well as the sets for The Great Train 
Robbery. Newsreels after a fashion date back to 1896. They 
have been a staple part of the commercial programme for over 
twenty years. Mostly dull records of dull things, their fascina- 
tion lay in their actuality and the speed with which the event 
in the newspaper was produced again in front of the spectator 
who now had a grand-stand view of the Qreat for the first time 
in his life. It was scarcely until the present war that newsreels 
were more than film strips glued together in chronological 
order, united only by the vividness of the commentary. Military 
reviews, society weddings and horse-racing were the staple 
items, with a dash of Royalty — when Royalty was willing. 

The Westerns from the earliest days shot more or less real 
cowboys in the bright American sun, but only for reasons of 
fiction. It was Robert Flaherty, a sort of film explorer, who 
took the camera to real life for real life's sake. The Revillon 
Freres Fur Company of New York sponsored his Nanook of 
the North. This was in 1920. Paul Rotha writes of this film: 

" Nanook differed from previous and many later natural- 
material pictures in the simplicity of its statement of the 
primitive existence led by the Eskimos, put on the screen 
with excellent photography (before the days of panchromatic 
emulsion) and with an imaginative understanding behind 
the use of the camera. It brought alive the fundamental 
issue of life in the sub-Arctic — the struggle for food — with 
such imaginatively chosen shots and with such a sincere 
feeling for the community interests of these people that it 
suggested far greater powers of observation than the plain 
description offered by other naturalistic photographers. 


Not merely did it reveal the daily struggle for life maintained 
by the Eskimo people, but it demonstrated that the progress 
of civilisation depends upon man's growing ability tojnake 
Nature serve a purpose and by his own skill to bind natural 
resources to his own ends. The screen has probably no 
more simply treated, yet brilliantly instructive sequence 
than that in which Nanook builds his igloo. In short, it 
established an entirely new approach to the living scene, 
forming the basis for a method of working which Flaherty 
has since developed." (Paul Rotha, " Documentary 
Film," pp. 81-2.) 

And John Grierson writes : 

" Nanook was the simple story o£ an Eskimo family and 
its fight for food, but in its approach to the whole question 
of film making was something entirely novel at the time it 
was made. It was a record of everyday life so selective in 
its detail and sequence, so intimate in its ' shots,' and so 
appreciative of the nuances of common feeling, that it was 
i a drama in many ways more telling than anything that had 
come out of the manufactured sets of Hollywood." 
(John Grierson, "Cinema Quarterly," No. 1,'pp. 13-14.) 

Flaherty must be judged great within his own limitations. 
He was not interested in the struggle for existence around him : 
he went away to look for it under adventurous primitive con- 
ditions or in the South Seas. This was not to be the main 
documentary tradition. Though Grierson was himself at first 
more of a romantic than he cared to admit after a degree in 
philosophy and research in social science, he looked for his 
material nearer home. 

Nanook was a commercial success. From then on till Man 
of Aran Flaherty suffered for his fame. Sent to the South Seas 
by the trade, he came back with Moana after two years' hard 
work studying and shooting his material. The film is a study 
of the ceremonial ritual of pain, the tattoo, inflicted to prove 
native manhood. The trade released it, writes Rotha, " as the 
love-life of a South Sea siren, prologued by stripped chorus 
girls and jangling guitars." After a number of further troubles 
Flaherty made Tabu in the South Seas with Murnau; but was 
dissatisfied enough to come to Europe after it was finished. 

84 FILM 

He has since made Man of Aran for Gaumont-British and 
Elephant Boy for London Films. 

The importance of Flaherty to documentary proper is that 
he was the first film-maker to carry out Grierson's precept, 
" the creative treatment of actuality." The difference between 
a newsreel and Nanook is that the newsreel is a record of 
reality, whereas Nanook is an interpretation. Flaherty lived 
with his subjects before he photographed them. He worked 
with them, studying their ways of life and thought. He watched 
the struggle with Nature, the fulfilment of tradition, the skill 
of the craftsman, the rhythm of simple age-long movements. 
Then he shot what he had seen, unrolling vast quantities of 
negative in the process, like Eisenstein in Mexico. Then he 
cut and built his film, using only a fraction of what he had shot 
so that his observation and its interpretation should be of the 
best. He was a craftsman studying craftsmen: a romantic 
recording the great theme of mankind and Nature. 

Grierson, however, was concerned with the people around 
him. He made Drifters, as Rotha puts it, "ona shoestring . . . 
it humbly brought to the screen the labour of the North Sea 
herring catch from such an approach that the ordinary person 
was made to realise, probably for the first time, that a herring 
on his plate was no mere accepted thing but the result of other 
men's physical toil and possibly courage. It ' brought alive ' 
(an E.M.B. phrase) not just the routine of the catch but the 
whole drama of emotional values that underlay the task, inter- 
preting in its stride the unconscious beauty of physical labour 
in the face of work done for a livelihood. Moreover, there 
were brought to the conception all the poetic qualities of ships, 
sea and weather. In other words, Grierson took a simple 
theme (there for the taking), took actually existing material 
(there for the shooting), and built a dramatised film by inter- 
preting the relationships of his theme and material in the sphere 
of daily existence. 

" Leaving style and technique apart, Drifters laid the founda- 
tion for documentary in this country. Maybe it lacked a full 
expression of social purpose. Powers of production limited 
that. But it was inspired by a greater aim than mere description 
or superficial observation. It was inspired by a sincere under- 
standing of the labour of man and the poetry of the sea. Beyond 
that, it served, and served well, a purpose beyond itself." 


The documentarians have always been vocal. Many of them 
have been prepared to lecture and write. A few of them, 
notably Grierson, Rotha and Basil Wright, have marked ability 
as writers. Knowing that their main public would be found 
among the film-minded minority now rapidly expanding in 
Film Societies and Clubs, these directors did not spare them- 
selves to expound the documentary idea. They founded 
" Cinema Quarterly," a beautifully produced magazine, which 
ran for three years. This became " World Film News " and 
later " See," neither up to the standards of" Cineftia Quarterly," 
through trying to be too slick and newsworthy. Since the 
establishment of Film Centre, who are consultants on the pro- 
duction and distribution of documentary films, they have 
produced through the Centre " Documentary News Letter " 
which reverts to the policy of " Cinema Quarterly " in acting 
as a forum of opinion on the movement, not neglecting notable 
feature films. Units grew up to meet the increasing demands 
of the Public Relations Officers of Industry and Government 
Departments, until, finally, after a year of hesitation, the new 
Ministry of Information adopted documentary for Government 
propaganda and gave the once struggling units more work to 
carry out than they could well cope with. Shell, Realist, Paul 
Rotha Productions, Strand, Gaumont-British Instructional, 
Spectator, Verity and others are now working as never before 
and to a standard which, though variable owing to lack of 
sufficient skilled direction, is high on an average for this 
country, and supreme throughout the world. 

In its ten years the movement has passed through two phases 
similar to those through which Russia passed in her twenty 
years. Though the motives of documentary did not change, 
the methods have. The technical preoccupation apparent in 
the build-up of the early significant documentaries (Drifters, 
Industrial Britain, Contact, Shipyard, Song of Ceylon, Night Mail 
and Coalface) has gone, and the newer method is more precise 
and less remote. The flash and swirl of machines, the lovely 
photogenic qualities of sunset over the pit-shaft, the smoky 
shapes and grey perspectives of industrial Britain lent them- 
selves to the cine-eye and to montage. In that tradition Basil 
Wright's Song of Ceylon was a model of the symphonic build-up 
of atmosphere and haunting beauty. 

86 FILM 

Song of Ceylon: (Production, John Grierson for Ceylon 

British. Tea Propaganda Board, 1934-35. 

Director, Basil Wright. 

Assistant, John Taylor. 

Music, Walter Leigh) 

" Song of Ceylon, made by the G.P.O. Film Unit and 
directed by Basil Wright, is introduced as a second feature 
into the fcurzon programme with little notice from the 
ecstatic connoisseurs of classic tragedy, although it is an 
example to all directors of perfect construction and the 
perfect application of montage. Perfection is not a word 
one cares to use, but from the opening sequence of the 
Ceylon forest, the great revolving fans of palm which fill 
the screen, this film moves with the air of absolute certainty 
in its object and assurance in its method. 

" It is divided into four parts. In the first, The Buddha, 
we watch a long file of pilgrims climb the mountain side to 
the huge stone effigies of the god. Here, as a priest strikes 
a bell, Mr. Wright uses one of the loveliest visual metaphors 
I have ever seen on any screen. The sounding of the bell 
startles a small bird from its branch, and the camera follows 
the bird's flight and the notes of the bell across the island, 
down from the mountain side, over forest and plain and 
sea, the vibration of the tiny wings, the fading sound. 

" The second part, The Virgin Island, is transitional, 
leading us away from the religious theme by' way of the 
ordinary routine of living to industry. In The Voices of 
Commerce the commentary, which has been ingeniously 
drawn from a seventeenth-century traveller's account of the 
island, gives place to scraps of business talk. As the 
natives follow the old ways of farming, climbing the palm 
trees with a fibre loop, guiding their elephants' foreheads 
against the trees they have to fell, voices dictate bills of 
lading, close deals over the telephone, announce through 
loud speakers the latest market prices. The last reel, The 
Apparel of a God, returns by way of the gaudy images on 
the mountain, to a solitary peasant laying his offering at 
Buddha's feet, and closes again with the huge revolving 
leaves, so that all we have seen of devotion and dance and 


the bird's flight and the gently communal life of harvest 
seems something sealed away from us between the fans of 
foliage. We are left outside with the bills of lading and 
the loud speakers." (Quotation of a review by Graham 
Greene— Alistair Cooke's " Garbo and the Night Watch- 
men," pp. 210-11.) 

This film received the first prize at the Brussels International 
Film Festival in 1935. Throughout the film the director- 
cameraman (Basil Wright did his own photography) worked in 
close co-operation with the composer, Walter Leigh, who 
directed its recording. The native music was by a troupe of 
Cingalese dancers and drummers who were brought over from 
Ceylon for the work of post-synchronisation, and were owned, 
feudal fashion, by one of the Kandyan chiefs. 

•Its elaboration, its marriage of sight and sound in such a way 
as to produce in a sensitive audience perspectives of meaning 
not ostensibly present in either image or sound track alone, its 
length, its occasional over-exposed photography, did not always 
lead fo a , sympathetic reception. In other words, it suffered 
from the courageous overlay of genius. But it was undoubtedly 
the greatest British-produced film in any category up to 1935, 
and for sustained beauty probably unequalled anywhere outside 

In a different manner Paul Rotha was making significant 
documentary. In Contact he had superb material: in Shipyard 
he made his material superb. The launching of the ship brings 
you back to montage, and leaves the later British Council film 
Steel goes to Sea standing still in the projector. These films 
had poetry, and if the eloquence of their visuals occasionally 
became rhetorical, one has to remember that documentary was 
still in its adolescence with the world its oyster. And the world 
is incredibly beautiful after a film studio, and filtered photo- 
graphy makes it more beautiful still. Man against the black- 
blue sky, factories against the rolling clouds, the countryside of 
Britain. God, what a chance ; and they took it. 

Night Mail and Coalface were the last great films of the indus- 
trial romanticism. Grierson described Night Mail to me as a 
kick in the belly. He was a philosopher and preferred Coalface. 
The public, and there was a public by now, preferred, however, 
to take the kick. What Wright had done for East and West in 

88 FILM 

Ceylon, Watt, with Wright to help him, did on a lesser scale 
for the G.P.O. and the railway. This film even got shown in 
the cinemas. So did many documentaries, but this was shown 
widely. It stood to the public as Drifters did to the documentary 
directors themselves. They saw the light, where hitherto had 
been some darkness. 

Both these films, and Coalface slightly preceded Night Mail 
in 1936, were experiments in sound. (The word ' experiment ' 
4 acted like magic in the mid-thirties. You were just nowhere if 
the film you had just made or the film you were planning was 
not an experiment in something.) Night Mail was direct and 
clear with a gift of a subject. Its night photography was good 
(something of an experiment), its build-up to the delivery of the 
postal bags in the trap-net tense with drama, its wonderful dawn 
shots a final confirmation that trains moving at a distance are 
definitely part of the beauty of the countryside. But its sound 
was considered its main feature. Trains make a comforting 
range of noises, and have their own rhythms, from the crescendo 
of buffers in shunting to the hypnotic rhythms of wheels on 
metals at speed. The casual remarks of sorters and raijway- 
men were used as natural sound. The poet W. H. Auden 
(experimenter in word-rhythm) contributed a letter-poem which 
ta-ta-ta-taad in time with wheels in the dawn rotating to Perth. 
The whole thing was excitement and romance, with glimpses 
of men working in the sorting cars, shunting boxes and stations 
on the way. 

Coalface (directed by Cavalcanti) was an oratorio of mining, 
and oratorios are not popular with film-goers. The visuals 
were good, but not exceptional. What mattered was the sound, 
which with Grierson as producer was recorded under the 
supervision of Cavalcanti by William Coldstream, Stuart Legg 
and Benjamin Britten. The usual method of speaking com- 
mentary to a background of music was avoided; both com- 
mentary and music were composed together. The effect was to 
incorporate commentary more clearly in the body of the film. To 
this foreground of sound were added a recitative chorus of male 
voices and a choir of male and female voices. The recitative 
chorus was used to fill out, by suggestion, the direct statement 
of the commentary. The choir was used to create atmosphere. 
This poem, sung by the female voices on the return of the 
miners to the surface, was written for the film by W. H. Auden : 


" O lurcher-loving collier black as night, 
Follow your love across the smokeless hill, 
Your lamp is out and all your cages still. 
Course for her heart and do not miss 
And Kate fly not so fast, 
For Sunday soon is past, 
And Monday comes when none may kiss. 
Be marble to his soot and to his black be white" 

But in 1936 the high day was over. Russia had produced 
Chapaev as a symbol of settling down to hard work. Docu- 
mentary in this country settled down as well to the straight 
presentation of industrial processes and the honest facing of 
social problems and experiments. There is no loveliness in the 
subject-matter of Housing Problems ; no symphony, though much 
emotion, in Children at School: the camera is reticent though the 
technique is superb in Elton's films about mechanical processes 
for Shell. Yet by that time, after five years as play-boys of the 
camera and cutting bench, there was little the documentarians 
did not know about films to apply to their new subjects and 
pass on over beers to their young assistants. They were a 
generation grown old in five years, but their beards were made 
of celluloid. 

Earlier Documentary Theory. — The documentary directors 
were and are always ready to talk and write about their films. 
Their job has made them mix with everybody on equal terms, 
intellectuals, workers and business executives. It is a relief to 
find people in films who are not so terrified of discussion they 
can only say " Huh " when asked a question and sign on 
another publicity pimp. 

The forum of discussion was first " Cinema Quarterly," 
econd " World Film News " which became " See," and now 
4 Documentary News Letter." The chief writers among them 
are Paul Rotha (who will not, I hope, be annoyed by being 
:alled a distinguished film historian as well as an important 
director and producer), John Grierson, and latterly Basil Wright. 
Their writings include some of the best journalism of the thirties 
md early forties. Their work made them at once alive to what 
vas going on in the world and keen to analyse it in film 
erms. This was good training for journalism. Because 
hey made films they only wrote when they wanted and 

90 FILM 

because they had something to say to a critical and know- 
ledgeable minority. 

Grierson announced his initial principles in 1932 in " Cinema 
Quarterly " (Winter 1932): 

" First principles. (1) We believe that the cinema's 
capacity for getting around, for observing and selecting 
from life itself, can be exploited in a new and vital art form.' 
The studio films largely ignore this possibility of opening up 
the screen on the real world. They photograph acted stories 
against artificial backgrounds. Documentary would photo- 
graph the living scene and the living story. (2) We believe 
that the original (or native) actor, and the original (or 
native) scene, are better guides to a screen interpretation 
of the modern world. They give cinema a greater fund of 
material. They give it power over a million and one 
movements, and power over a million and one images. 
They give it power of interpretation over more complex 
and astonishing happenings in the real world than the 
studio mind can conjure up or the studio mechanician 
recreate.' (3) We believe that the materials and the stories 
thus taken from the raw can be finer (more real in the 
philosophic sense) than the acted article. Spontaneous 
gesture has a special value on the screen. Cinema has a 
sensational capacity for enhancing the movement which 
tradition has formed or time worn smooth. Its arbitrary 
rectangle specially reveals movement ; it gives it maximum 
pattern in space and time. Add to this that documentary 
can achieve an intimacy of knowledge and effect impossible 
to the shimsham mechanics of the studio, and the lily- 
fingered interpretations of the metropolitan ac.tor " (p. 69) 

Whilst admiring the symphonies of Ruttmann in Berlin and 
the romantic feeling for traditional craftsmanship and custom 
in Flaherty, he feels that for himself his documentary sense 
needs a stronger approach within the limits of industrialised 
civilisation. He speaks of the beliefs of his colleagues which he, 
shared and largely inspired : 

" They believe that beauty will come in good time td Q 
inhabit the statement which is honest and lucid and deeply^ 
felt and which fulfils the best ends of citizenship. They 


are sensible enough to conceive of art as the by-product 
# (the over-tone) of a job of work done. The opposite 
attempt to capture the by-product first (the self-conscious 
pursuit of beauty, the pursuit of art for art's sake to the 
exclusion of jobs of work^and other pedestrian beginnings), 
was always a reflection of selfish wealth, selfish leisure and 
aesthetic decadence." (" Cinema Quarterly, 5 ' Spring 1933, 
p. 137.) 

Two years later he underlines the analytical tendencies of these 
young directors : 

" Many of us, brought up in the post-impressionist 
revolt, have made structure our- god. f Observe and 
analyse,' 'Know and build,' 'Out of research poetry 
comes,' were the slogans we set before us. They suited the 
academic and the radical in our minds. They brought us 
more readily to the new material of our times. 

"I have watched with some closeness the working of 
these influences in the films of Wright, Elton and Legg. 
All are painstakingly and rather proudly academic. When 
they shoot a factory, say, they learn how to ask the right 
questions. Elton, for example, knows more than a little 
about railways and mechanics; Wright has mastered the 
history of every subject he has touched; and I will swear 
that Legg knows more about the organisation of the B.B.C. 
than any outsider decently should. \ 

" The only point at which art is concerned with infor- 
mation is the point at which ' the flame shoots up and the 
light kindles and it enters into the soul and feeds itself 
there.' Flash-point there must be. Information indeed 
can be a dangerous business if the kindling process is not 
there. Most professors are a dreary warning of what 
happens when the informationist fails to become a poet." 
(" Cinema Quarterly," Rummer 1935, p. 195.) 

' Paul Rotha pursued a different line from Grierson. In those 
arlier days up to 1935 it might be fair to say that Grierson's 
irectors were more interested in the artistic treatment of 
idustry than in the social problems involved, whereas Rotha 
as becoming interested in propaganda. He writes in 1935 in 

- 1 Documentary Film " : 

92 FILM 

" In brief there exists today, on the one hand, an urgent 
need for the stimulation of wide interest among the public 
in matters of national and international significance, and, 
on the other, a gradual ripening of social consciousness 
among a small but increasing minority. There is no ; 
question, however, that if the future development of 
civilisation is to proceed with any prospect of security and 
social progress, a great deal must be done to spread know- 
ledge about the simple workings of government and the 
essential facts of our economic and social ways and means ' 
(pp. 38-9). 

He was becoming interested in the social system underlying 
the working of the processes Grierson was presenting with such 
artistic vigour. He resented the way the capitalist film industry 
banned essential social subjects, and represented life falsely in 
the studio at a period (and how right he was !) when a true 
representation was most necessary. For it must not be for- 
gotten that documentary was beginning when Hitler knuckle- 
dusted his way into the Chancellery of Germany. 

The film must teach while there is time to learn: it must 
line up with the propaganda of healthy social progress: 

" Now it is very obvious that, by reason of virtues in- 
herent in its form, cinema is one of the most powerful 
channels of expression for persuasion and public illumina 
tion. Its peculiar suitabilities as an instrument of propa- 
ganda are almost too patent to specify. In brief, it| 
possesses : 

' " (1) An introduction to the public shared only by the 
radio, with a resultant power of mass suggestion. 

" (2) Simple powers of explanation and capacities for 
making statements which, if presented with a craftsmanship 
that takes full advantage of artistic values, are capable of 
persuasive qualities without e§Ual, and 

" (3) Virtues of mechanised repeated performance to a 
million persons, not once but countless times a day, to 
morrow and, if the quality is good, enough, ten years 
hence " (p. 49). 

The artist, instead of being sunk in the expression of his own e 


jelfish aestheticism, can, through the film, come out into the 
mn where life lies around him. False individualism must end : 

".In this way the practice of the arts h^s become a matter 
of personal activity, detached from all social life, admirably 
suiting the cultural ideals set up by bourgeois aestheticism. 
The artist has become a man apart from other men, a 
human being with privileges denied the common mob, 
expressing and satisfying the whims of a small cultivated 
portion of society. Painting has become a tough symbolism 
and all-in wrestling with the subconscious mind unin- 
telligible to the majority. Poetry has become a private 
experience far removed from most reasonable under-, 
standing. A great deal of literature is concerned purely 
with the personal struggles and experience of unimportant 
individuals, seeking satisfaction in an imaginary world 
devoid of human relationships on a significant scale. And 
where cinema has pretended to be an art in itself, with no 
other ends than its aesthetic virtues, it has slobbered and 
expired in a sepulchre of symbolism or, still worse, 
mysticism " (p. 61). 

'he film must follow Russia into the field of social problems : 

" The big films of cinema, few as they are, have all served 
a special purpose and have not come into being primarily 
as the result of mere artistic endeavour or the desire to 
make profit. They are significant because of the sincerity 
of their creators in the part they were intended to play in 
social and political enlightenment. Kameradschaft and 
Potemkin are the two favourite examples. They were 
both propagandist. 

" Without this aim of special service, I cannot see that 
cinema has any real significance beyond that of providing 
a temporary emotional refuge for the community, making 
profit or loss for its moneyed speculators and preserving 
a record for future historical reference which will give a 
partly erroneous picture of our age " (p. 65). 

This new cinema must cease to be the tool of entertainment, 
en of a highbrow minority in Film Societies. It must serve 
e people as a teacher: 

94 FILM 

" Real and creative thought must he about real things. 
Let cinema explore outside the limits of what we are told 
constitutes entertainment. Let cinema attempt the drama- 
tisation of the living scene and the living theme, springing 
from the living present instead of from the synthetic 
fabrication of the studio. Let cinema attempt film inter- 
pretations of modern problems and events, of things as 
they really are today, and by so doing perform a definite 
function. Let cinema recognise the existence of real men 
and women, real things and real issues, and by so doing 
offer to State, Industry, Commerce, to public and private 
organisations of all kinds, a method of communication and 
propaganda to project not just personal opinions but 
arguments for a world of common interests " (pp. 66-7). 

This vigorous appeal had its effect, but only because it was 
an expression of what was already in the minds of the docu- 
ment arians themselves. 

Later Documentary. — Some of the more important docu- 
mentaries between 1935 and the beginning of the war were: 

Housing Problems. (Elton and Anstey, 1935. For British 

Commercial Gas Association.) 
Workers and Jobs. (Arthur Elton, 1935. London Films for 

Ministry of Labour.) 
The Face of Britain, (Paul Rotha, 1935. Gaumont-British 

Cover to Cover. (Alexander Shaw, 1936. Strand Films for 

National Book Council.) 
The Mine. (J. B. Holmes, 1936. Gaumont-British Instruc- 
The Nutrition Film {Enough to Eat?). (Edgar Anstey, 1936. 

For Gas Light & Coke Co.) 
Today we Live. (Ruby I. Grierson, 1937. Strand Unit for 

National Council of Social Services.) 
Children at School (Basil Wright, 1937. Realist Film Unit 

for British Commercial Gas Association.) 
We Live in Two Worlds. (Cavalcanti, 1937. G.P.O. Film 

The Future is in the Air. (Alexander Shaw, 1937. Strand Films 

for Imperial Airways.) 


The Smoke Menace. (John Taylor, 1937. Realist Film Unit 

for British Commercial Gas Association.) 
Dawn of Iran. (John Taylor, 1938. Strand Films for Anglo- 
Iranian Oil Company.) 
Five Faces. (Alexander Shaw, 1938. Strand Films for the 

Malayan Government.) 
Oil from the Earth. (D'Arcy Cartwright, 1938. Shell Film 

New Horizons. (Cecil Musk, 1938. For the Ministry of 

The Londoners. (John Taylor, 1938. Realist Film Unit for 

British Commercial Gas Association.) 
Spanish A. B.C. (Thorold Dickinson, 1938. For Progressive 

Film Institute.) 
North Sea. (Harry Watt, 1938. G.P.O. Film Unit.) 

With these subjects among the chief documentaries of the 
period no one can grumble that Rotha's admonitions were not 
carried out. Credit should go to the G.P.O. for its wide interpre- 
tation of its public relations, in spite of which Grierson resigned 
in 1937. Credit should go to the public spirit of the British 
Commercial Gas Association and Shell-Mex for sponsoring 
mportant films on social problems and technical processes. 
Len Lye alone developed film for film's sake in colour with his 
-emarkable experiments, ostensibly to help post-office propa- 
ganda but really to please himself. The tolerance of the G.P.O. 
mist have been remarkable, but he gave great pleasure to those 
yhom he did not send home ophthalmic. 

Then came the war. The G.P.O. Unit stepped in quickly and 
vith quiet effect in The First Days. After a hesitant start and 
he beautiful G.P.O. film Squadron 992, the newly formed 
vlini$try of Information decided to adopt documentary for the 
luration. By the end of 1940 it had started its dual distribution 
olicy of persuading the exhibitors to show a five-minute film 
which grew to seven or eight minutes) in their programmes, 
nd more boldly by placing some fifty mobile film vans on the 
3ads of Britain with full-length programmes of documentary 
> be shown freely to audiences in town or village. This solved 
le distribution problem for documentary, which, what with 
ne thing and another, had been the big heartache for the past 
n years. 

96 FILM 

But for odd moments of relaxation, the Trade had hitherto 
told documentary where to put itself. Classed at the worst as 
highbrow and educational, at the best as " travelogue " or 
" interest," during which an audience could change its seats 
and buy its chocolate, documentary got little headway as a whole 
in commercial programmes. The growing number of News 
Theatres found it useful, but these did not exist widely outside 
London and a few provincial houses, where its titles were buried 
under raucous publicity for bad imitations of Disney. The Film 
Societies showed the films religiously, but the biggest distribution 
was on the whole non-theatrical, as it was called. Non- 
theatrical means normally substandard and private showing on 
16 mm. projectors owned by private persons or organisations, 
clubs, schools, institutes and colleges. As the filrri supply grew, 
the number of types of good talkie 16 mm.. projectors placed 
on the non-theatrical market increased. A demand sprang up, 
necessarily largely from schools, but by no means entirely so. 
Film Libraries for documentary grew to promote and meet the 
demand. As an outcome of the Report of the Commission 
on Educational and Cultural Films, financed chiefly by the 
Carnegie Trustees (1929-32), the British Film Institute was 
set up in 1933 to foster the use of the film for educational pur- 
poses, and to preserve the cultural heritage (such as it is) of 
commercial film in the vaults of its now famous library. Organi- 
sations like E.M.B., G.P.O., Shell-Mex and the British Com- 
mercial Gas Association had their own lending libraries from 
which films could be borrowed for the price of the postage 
stamp to be stuck on the returning parcel. 

By this means a large, and measurable, non-theatrical audience 
was being fostered, and children were being taught to dis- 
tinguish films from orange peel. 

The Ministry of Information took over the G.P.O. and Empire 
Film Library, set up its own Regional distribution executive 
and played to five million people from factory to remotest 
countryside in the first year of its Film Division's existence. So 
successful was this plan, that within two and a half years it had 
trebled its initial operating staff and will hit the twenty million 
mark of people who see a programme of documentary or sub- 
standard' film in a year. It has revolutionised the documentary, 
output, having commissioned, acquired and stuck together ou^ 
of library material some four hundred films in forty months^ 






E, 1915 

tish Film 







if ^flBj^_ s _W 

(c) Super- jn 


and Came 

Today Wc 


and Ralph 
Bond: Strc\t 

Peter the 

Lenfilm, 19 

Things to jli 
Come j 

( Menzies: \ i 
London Fim\ 

1935) '! 


The Last 

UFA, 192f 


UFA, 1925) 


(Stills in 
section by 
courtesy of 
the British 
Film Institu 

The Odesst 
Steps Sequ\ 

UP TO 1937 

The End of St Petersberg 
{Pudovkin, 1927) 

General Li, 


The Ghost 
that Never 






f Mice and Men 

Milestone: United Artists, 1940) 


The Long 



{Ford: Vi 
Artists, IS 

Lang: Nerofilm, 1932) 

T --- M 


tf* ■ 






, '■■ ,ii3; 0\ I" 

* W*£ i 

I • ^S 


-r s 


Things tc 


(Korda: London Films, 1936)' 




Zero de Conduite 

(Vigo: Franco Film Aubert, IS 

La Kermesse Hirolque 

(Feyder: Films Sonores Tobi 

jrande Illusion 

oir: Realisation d'Art 
fnatographique, 1938) 



Artists, 15 

fessions of a Nazi Spy 
ac: First National, 1939) 


(Santell: R.K.O. Radio, V 

Dead End 
Artists, 19| 

Tne Good! 

(Franklin: I 

mile Zola 

Oieterle: First National, 1937) 

The Stor 
Louis Pt 


Passport to Fame 
(Ford: Columbia, 1935) 

The Plough! 
and the Stat 

{Ford: R.K.\ 
Radio, 19361 


le Grapes I 
! Wrath | 

ord: 20th 
mtury-Fox y 
(40) l 

The Grap 
of Wrath 

Citizen Ka 

R.K.O. Ra 

Citizen Ka: 


R.K.O. Ra 



Nanook c 
the North 1 
Freres, \9} 

Man of Aft 
{Flaherty: J 
British, 193( 

London Film 



E.M.B., 1 


(Grierson ai 
E.M.B., 19] 


(Flaherty arm 
G.P.O. Film] 
Unit, 1933) 


(Rotha: G 

Chapter ar 

Strand Fih 
Co., 1936) 

Face of 

G.B.I., 193 

y Made 


Id: G.B.I.* 



list, 1937) 


>o, 1936) 

Today We Live 

(R. L Grierson and Ralph Bond 
Strand Film Co., 1937) 

{Anstey an 
Elton: Bri 
Gas Associ 
tion y 1935) 

Enough tc 
Eat: The 

1936) - 

Target for 



m m 

^j Comman<| 




\ll: Shell 


ml Rotha 

1* - 


■••••• *% :., ' -' !&v ' - 

"1 .' 

ig on the 


March of 
£ 6th 
, Issue 2) 




'., 1936) 

The Rivi 

(Latent z\ 
A dm in is i 
Hon, U.i 
Govt., IS 

Civil Liberties Film 


Ftontiet Films, 1939)1 

The Wave 

(St t and: 
Fine Atts 
Govt., 193 






Day of 

f ral News- 


"a I News- 



Pastor Hall 

(Boulting Brothers: Charter, 111) 

49th Pari 

Ortos Fill! 

One of O 

Aircraft is 

(Powell: ! 
National, \ 


It has suffered heavily from lack of enough good directors to 
respond to its needs, but in spite of so prodigious an output the 
standards have fallen very seldom below the mediocre and in 
many instances have risen above pre-war power. 

On the other side of the picture the G.P.O. Unit was taken 
over by the Ministry of Information and given the title of Crown 
Film Unit. It has specialised in larger-scale documentary, 
following up its pre-war high-spot North Sea with Men of the 
hightship and Merchant Seamen, Then it hit the Trade skywise 
with Target for Tonight. Exhibitors paid this film the supreme 
[compliment of criticising the distribution agreement between 
the Ministry and the Exhibitors' Association. Here at last was 
a documentary they and the public asked to see because it had 
the star value of being about the R.A.F. Whatever may be 
trumped up against this film, it was the second great British docu- 
mentary after Song of Ceylon. It illustrates processes (in this 
case how a raid over German territory is actually carried out) 
and at the same time shows us people. It does not forget 
montage or the cine-eye when the bombers take off or F for 
Freddie sails the clouds to Walton's lovely music (" Freihausen, 
here we come "). It does not forget silence when we strain 
with the Wing-Commander to hear F for Freddie's returning 
hum. It does not forget to dramatise the personalities of its 
human material who speak and act like real people in the middle 
of a real job with the R. A.F.'s flair for understatement. Unfor- 
tunately Target was such a success that it knocked the Unit 
skywise as well as the public. In coming back to earth it made 
Ferry Pilot and Coastal Command, also good air pictures (there 
is a rumour that Crown can only make good films anyhow), 
but distinctly part of a return flight on the way back for other 

. In the helter-skelter of more and yet more propaganda, it is 
difficult to stop and look at the few outstanding war documen- 
taries among the mass of competent film messages for the 
Government. Among them are probably : 

Britain Can Take It. (Crown Film Unit, 1940. Produced by 

Harry Watt.) 
Airscrew. (Shell Film Unit, 1940. Director, Graham Tharpe.) 
Squadron 992. (G.P.O. Film Unit, 1940. Director, Harry 


98 FILM 

Men of the Lightship. (G.P.O. Film Unit, 1940. Director, 

D. Macdonald.) 
Merchant Seamen. (Crown Film Unit, 1941. Director, J. B. 

Listen to Britain. (Crown Film Unit, 1941. Director, Hum- 
phrey Jennings.) 
Adeste Fideles. (Strand Production Unit, 1941. Directors, 

R. Keene and R. Bond.) 
Target for Tonight. (Crown Film Unit, 1941. Director, HarrJ 

Ferry Pilot. (Crown Film Unit, 1941. Director, P., Jackson.) 
Siege of Tobruk. (Army Film Unit, 1 942.) 
WaveWs 30,000. (Crown Film Unit, 1942. Director, J, 

Street Fighting. (Army Film Unit, 1942.) 
Blood Transfusion. (Paul Rotha Productions, 1942. Director, 

H. Neiter.) 
Night Shift. (Paul Rotha Productions, 1942. Director, J. 

Coastal Command. (Crown Film Unit, 1942. * Director, J. B. 

Control Room. (Shell Film Unit, 1943. Director,' Geoffrey 

Spring on the Farm. (Greenpark Productions, 1943. Director, 

Ralph Keene.) 
The Harvest Shall Come. (Realist Film Unit, 1942. Director, 

Marc Anderson.) l 

Documentary Theory in Wartime. — " Documentary News 
Letter," product of the documentary consultants Film Centre, 
has been reiterating impatiently the need for stronger and 
better documentary propaganda than, in its opinion, the Ministry 
of Information has seen fit to allow. The main line of attack 
is stated bluntly in these two paragraphs from the leading 
article for March 1942: 

"Our propaganda has not failed merely for mechanical 
reasons. It has failed because it is bankrupt of ideas and 
bankrupt of policy. 

" It will continue to fail just as long a6 our propagandists 

1 List compiled up to early 1943 ; for more recent films see back of 


continue to shut their eyes to the fact that we are living 
in the middle of a world revolution, and that therefore 
revolutionary tactics are not merely expedient but also 
absolutely vital." (Column 1.) 

The Government reply has been to stick pretty rigidly to war 
issues and leave the controversial future to evolve its own policy. 
It could hardly do anything else with so many colours sticking 
pins in each other on the political map. But that does not 
prove the D.N.L. policy to be wrong from documentary's point 
of view. Grierson, now Director of Canada's Film Board, 
contributes an occasional trenchant article, and Wright made 
an interesting criticism of Cavalcanti's film survey of docu- 
mentary Film and Reality, in the course of which he writes as 
follows : 

" When the war began documentary was no longer in its 
experimental stage. Realist traditions had by then been 
firmly established, and the results of the experiments of the 
previous ten years had been crystallised into several different 
styles. Nevertheless that static stage, which in any move- 
ment is the prelude to complete necrosis, had in no sense 
been reached. On the contrary, in the years immediately 
preceding World War II the realist movement was be- 
ginning to concern itself firstly with larger and broader 
treatments of subject-matter, and secondly with an increased 
use of dramatic incident and dialogue (cf. The Londoners 
and North Sea, to give but two examples)." (" Documentary 
News Letter," March 1942, p. 41.) 

The war, he goes on, has placed limitations on the docu- 
mentary workers and a discipline not altogether harmful. But 
he urges them to go beyond the demands of official sponsors, 
since it is their job, as pioneers, to blaze the trail of future 
social policy. 

" I believe absolutely that the revolutionary technique is 
now the only technique. Whether you like it or not, we 
are undergoing a world social revolution here and now, 
and it is a revolution which must continue after the war, 
and continue with increasing strength. For that is the 
only thing the people of Britain are fighting for. 

" It is today the job of documentary to integrate the 

100 FILM 

immediate war-effort with the facts and implications of 
radical social and economic changes which are part and 
parcel of it. 

" Only from this standpoint can we get into our films 
the dynamic impulse which will strengthen their propa- 
ganda value to this nation and its allies. 

" The realist tradition is rich in the abilities for the job. 
The whole trend of the 'thirties was towards this dynamic 
concept (we said we were trying to make Peace as exciting 
as War), and the films which were made tended more and 
more to sacrifice purely aesthetic considerations to the need 
for pungent comment and the imaginative presentation of 
facts and problems. 

" Today the intensification of effort which is so urgently 
needed depends on an equal intensification of morale- 
propaganda ; and if we don't pull our punches any longer 
we have a vital contribution to make. 

" I believe that the future of the realist film (if one can 
spare a moment to look ahead in such parochial terms) 
lies in the attitude and action which I have outlined. Our 
films must be the shock troops of propaganda. It is no 
longer policy to compromise with timidity — either among 
ourselves or in others. The documentary movement is 
part of a continuous process and a continuous progress 
towards a new deal in life for the peoples of the world. 
And the only slogan worth having today is ' Speed it up ! ' ! 
(" Documentary News Letter," March 1942, p. 42.) 

In a later letter he praises Grierson in a tribute which should 
not be omitted from this book. He writes : 

" I am sure that I am expressing the feelings of docu- 
mentary workers as a whole. I must point out that Grierson 
has always been and still is a remarkable technician, a 
magnificent teacher, and in short, a great producer. . . . 
Grierson is not merely the founder of the documentary 
movement. Since its inception it has been his own under- 
standing of film technique, his encouragement of experi- 
mentation and ... his uncanny grasp and knowledge of 
aesthetics as regards art in general and film art in particular, 
which have been the driving force and inspiration of the 
progress of documentary. 


" These qualities ... I have put first, but I must now add 
Grierson's \ political grasp and foresight, his incredible 
energy and organisational drive, and, above all, his un- 
swerving loyalty not merely to the idea of documentary but 
also to all those working with him." ("Documentary 
News Letter, April 1942, p. 58.) 

This is a statement which cannot be ignored, and which is 
important coming from a man who is himself a distinguished 

Grierson takes the long-term view in a striking statement on 
propaganda in "Documentary News Letter" for May 1941. 
A year later his views on " The Documentary Idea 1942 " appear 
in the issue for June of that year. 

The following are extracts which will do good if they lead the 
reader to the original, which is one of the great statements 
about the future produced by the war. It gives the documentary 
directors the lead they are accustomed to expect from the founder 
of their movement : 

" The penalty of realism is that it is about reality and has 
to bother for ever not about being ' beautiful ' but about 
being right." 

" What confuses the history is that we had always the 
good sense to use the aesthetes. We did so because we 
liked them and because we needed them. It was, para- 
doxically, with the first-rate aesthetic help of people like 
Flaherty and Cavalcanti that we mastered the techniques 
necessary for our quite unaesthetic purpose. That purpose 
was plain and was written about often enough. Rotha 
spent a lot of time on it. We were concerned not with the 
category of ' purposiveness without purpose ' but w^th 
that other category beyond, which used to be called teleo- 
logical. We were reformers open and avowed : concerned 
— to use the old jargon — with ■ bringing alive the new 
materials of citizenship,' * crystallising sentiments ' and 
creating those ' new loyalties from which a progressive 
civic will might derive.' Take that away and I'd be hard 
put to it to say what I have been working for these past 
fifteen years. What, of course, made documentary success- 
ful as a movement was that in a decade of spiritual weariness 
it reached out, almost alone among the media, toward the 

102 FILM 

future. Obviously it was the public purpose within it 
which commanded government and other backing, the 
progressive social intention within it which secured the 
regard of the newspapers and people of goodwill every- 
where, and the sense of a public cause to be served which 
kept its own people together. These facts should have 
made it clear that the documentary idea was not basically 
a film idea at all, and the film treatment it inspired only an 
incidental aspect of it. The medium happened to be the 
most convenient and most exciting ayailable to us. The 
idea itself, on the other hand, was a new idea for public 
education : its underlying concept that the world was in a 
phase of drastic change affecting every manner of thought 
and practice, and the public comprehension of the nature 
of that change vital. There it is, exploratory, experimental 
and stumbling, in the films themselves : from the dramati- 
sation of the workman and his daily drag to the dramatisa- 
tion of modern organisation and the new corporate elements 
in society and to the dramatisation of social problems : each 
a step in the attempt to understand the stubborn raw 
material of our modern citizenship and wake the heart and 
the will to their mastery. Where we stopped short was 
that, with equal deliberation, we refused to specify what 
political agency should carry out that will or associate 
ourselves with any one of them. Our job specifically was 
to wake the heart and the will: it was for the political 
parties to make before the people their own case for leader- 
ship. I would not restate these principles merely out of 
historical interest. The important point is that they have 
not changed at all and they are not going to change, nor 
v be changed. The materials of citizenship today are 
different and the perspectives wider and more difficult ; but 
we have, as ever, the duty of exploring them and of waking 
the heart and will in regard to them. (Documentary is at 
once a critique of propaganda and a practice of it.) That 
duty is what documentary is about. It is, moreover, 
documentary's primary service to the State to be persisted in, 
whatever deviation may be urged upon it, or whatever con- 
fusion of thought, or easiness of mind, success may bring." 
" No war aims, I am told, becomes * no policy ' for 
documentary. Yet those who insist on ' no policy ' are 


correctly reflecting a phase which dares not go right and 
dares not go left and has no easy solution to offer except 
first winning the war. It would be wise to see the ' no 
policy ' business for what it is, a present political necessity 
for governments which, for many reasons — som& schizo- 
phrenic, some more realistically involving allies — may not 
speak their minds ;* and explore what can be done none the 
less and in spite of it." 

" Once consider that England is only important as it is 
related to other nations, and its problems and developments 
only important as they are recognised as part of wider 
problems and developments, and many subjects will reach 
out into healthier and mot e exciting perspectives of descrip- 
tion than are presently being utilised." 

" A lot has to be done and done quickly if the public 
mind is to be tuned in time to what, amid these swift-moving 
changes of public organisation, is required of it. It is not 
the technical perfection of the film that matters, nor even 
the vanity of its maker, but what happens to that public 
mind. Never before has there been such a call for the 
creation of new loyalties or bringing people to new kinds 
of sticking points. Times press and so must production ; 
and with it must go a harder and more direct style." 

" In its basic meaning, culture is surely the giving of law 
to what is without it. That hard but'truer way of culture 
will not go by default if we search* out the design in the 
seeming chaos of present events and, out of today's experi- 
ments in total effort, create the co-operative and more 
profoundly * democratic ' ways of the future. The verbs 
are active. To go back once again to Tallents' Mill 
quotation, the pattern of the artist in this* relationship will 
indicate the living principle of action." 

" So the lon& windy openings are out, and so are the 
cathartic finishes in which a good brave tearful self-con- 
gratulatory and useless time has been had by all. The 
box-office — pander to what is lazy, weak, reactionary, 
vicarious, sentimental and essentially defeatist in all of us — 
will, of course instinctively howl for them. It will want 
to make f relaxation,' if you please, even out of war. But 
don't, for God's sake, give it. Deep down the people 

104 FILM 

want to be fired to tougher ways of thought and feeling 
and to have their present braveries extended to the very 
roots of their social existence. In that habit they will win 
more than a war." 



Documentary Elsewhere. — The story of documentary outside 
this country and Russia is the story of isolated titles. In France 
documentary was linked with avant-garde and produced Caval- fc 
canti who made Rien que les heures, a film built on a structural an 
pattern which traced the occupations of given individuals against- of 
the background of a day in Paris, and preceded the famous 
Berlin of Ruttmann, which was symphonic in treatment and 
influenced by Russian montage. Cavalcanti joined Grierson 
in Britain in 1934. Holland produced Joris Ivens who, after 
making some of the usual early-type documentaries, went to 
Russia to direct Komsomol, a film on the Russian League of 
Youth. Ivens later did notable work in Spain in Spanish Earth 
with Ernest Hemingway. In Spain, too, the remarkable film (pi 
Land without Bread was made by the Frenchman Bunuel in 
1932. It was a devastating study of the Hurdanos who, living 
only a comparatively few miles from Burgos, existed and may 
still exist in a state of backwardness and misery behind a thin 
veneer of semi-civilisation. The camera dwelt at unrelenting \ 
length on disease and mental deficiency. Germany produced 
a long line of travelogues, often well made, to attract the visitor 
and his money to the land of Adolf Hitler. 

The documentary mind in America showed itself in the 
distinguished work of Pare Lorentz, who made The Plow that 
broke the Plains in 1936 for the Pre-Settlement Administration 
♦of the Roosevelt government. The film precedes The Grapes of 
Wrath in dealing with the Dustbowl. Rhetorical-poetic in 
presentation, if has undoubted power. The commentary was 
also a feature in The River, released in 1938 and made by Lorentz 
for the Farm Security Administration. It is an important film, 
the most important single documentary America has so far 

The River : (1938. Produced for the Farm Security Admin- 
-American. istration, United States Department of Agri- 
culture. Director, Pare Lorentz.) 
Theme. — A hundred years of the history of the Mississippi, 
its spoliation by successive pioneers in cotton, timber and corn- 


ands, the ruination of land and population by poverty and 
lood. The New Deal under the Roosevelt Administration 
jtarts new work to conserve and develop the devastated areas. 
Technique. — Sound : musical background of Mississippi folk- 
uriq themes, a commentary skilfully ranging from the poetic 
with emphatic use of lovely place-names like the rivers Kas- 
cashkea and Monongahela) to the factual. General atmosphere 
md presentation has been called impressionist : the atmosphere 
:>f the Mississippi region is considered more important than an 
jxact statement of statistics. The sense of greed and ruthless 
xploitation, which is the major theme of the film, is powerfully 
expressed ; impressionism wins over statistics in the emotional 
eaction set up in the audience: this must stop: this must 
lever happen again. It is good propaganda for the New Deal 
ince, when the audience is most revolted by this exhibition of 
jreed and human suffering, the solution follows simply in the 
)lans to dam the waters in the Tennessee valley and rehabilitate 
50th land and peoples. 

In 1935 America produced the first issue of March of Time, 
is part of the Luce enterprises. It runs to this day, though 
rom the point of view of the enterprises it has never been a 
noney-spinner. Its fame and influence far outdo its profits; 
ts style has had its effect upon the Canadian Canada Carries On 
md Front of Action series ; it has been successfully parodied 
>y Welles in Citizen Kane and by Tommy Handley in Itma. 

Released once a month, it has covered a world front with its 
cameramen. Some of its issues included three items, some 
>nly one. Its range and journalistic flair can be seen from 
ome of the subjects it has recorded or reconstructed, and it has 
)ften been courageous and outspoken in its criticism of dictator- 
hip and fascism, when people who should have known better 
vere praising Hitler's architecture and Mussolini's trains, 
lere are some of its subjects, the earlier dates significant. 

1936. Japanese Imperial Policy in Manchuria. 
Geneva (Italy ; Mediterranean ; Abyssinia). 
The French Peasants and the Government. 

1937. The Far East and Chang Kai-shek. 
British Black Areas. 

106 FILM 

U.S.A. Child Labour. 
The Dust Bowl. 

1938. Inside Nazi Germany. 

Nazi Conquest of Austria. 

, 1939. The Refugees. 

Mediterranean, Background for War. 
Japan, Master of the Orient. 
Britain, Peace and Propaganda. ^ 

1941. America Speaks her Mind. 
China Fights Back. 
Men of Norway. 
Peace — by Adolf Hitler. 

Its technique does not depend on lively camera-work so much 
as on the high-powered sure-hit commentary and the rhetorical 
speed of its cutting. English audiences found the non-stop 
crescendo of the March of Time voice difficult to absorb. 
Statistics and social comment were alike delivered with a rich 
harsh impersonality impervious to English susceptibilities for 
the sweet and facetious. But it was respected and sought out. 
It said so much which the decent Englishman believed in and 
wanted to have said, but could not get his leaders to imply. 
After a time, too, the alien voice softened, or the volume was 
kept down in recording. The March of Time was and is notable 
documentary, a jump nearer to the newsreels, which have in 
turn, with the substantial war material provided for them, and 
with more careful editing, moved a jump nearer to documentary 


In the novel it has become quite a commonplace to bring 
realism to the pitch that fiction merges into fact ; instance j 
Ralph Bates' " Lean Men," the works of Barbusse and Malraux, i 
the autobiographical quality of Proust and the panoramas of j 
Sholokov. Who is to say where these books cease to be novels 
in any traditional sense of the term and become a projection 
of actuality fitted with personnel and dialogue? It is better to 
forget theory and call such work — peculiarly twentieth century, ! 
though Thomas Deloney wrote in this manner in Elizabeth's ; 



time — the documentary novel. Its peculiar property is that the 
writer re-creates in the literary form the phases of life and the 
personalities of people he has experienced and met. It is 
unlikely a satisfactory documentary novel will be produced 
except by a man who has lived under the conditions he describes 
either as partner or, like Flaherty, as intrusive observer. 

The film presents the same dovetail. Where does fiction 
begin in the dialogue and acting of North Sea, Men of the 
Lightship, Merchant Seamen and Target for Tonight ? Where 
does documentary begin in The Foreman went to France (with 
Cavalcanti as associate producer), The Grapes of Wrath, and, 
farther back, The Covered Wagon, D. W. Griffith's three-hour 
epics and Pudovkin's stories of the Revolution? The docu- 
mentaries tell a story, or at least a continuous action: they 
excite sympathy for personalities who are none 'the less drama- 
tised although played by themselves. The features tell a story 
with the more elaborate help of action, but the story is as much 
concerned with actuality, the stuff of documentary, as docu- 
mentary itself. Once more, it is better to forget theory and call 
the latter group documentary features, and the former docu- 
mentary drama. The success and importance of both groups 
spell permanence and development. But neither will oust the 
more traditional documentary or fiction films from their 
stablished approaches. 

Of these two newer types of film Merchant Seamen and The 
Prapes of Wrath will be taken as examples : 

Merchant Seamen: (Crown Film Unit, 1941. 

British. Director, J. B. Holmes) 

Theme. — The hazards of the Merchant Service : its ability to 
lit back. 

Story. — The action centres round a group of merchant seamen 
of all ages and diverse types. They are torpedoed, but escape 
to serve again, The youngest among them learns gunnery and, 
on the next convoy Cut, hits a submarine. 

Treatment and Technique r— -The story is told throughout in 
:erms of the experiences and personalities of these seamen, with 
:he commentary spoken by one of themselves. The friendly 
:haffing of the opening sequence is torn asunder by the crash 
->{ the explosion and the rush of water. The shipwreck is 
emarkably reconstructed and finely shot. The hospital and 

108 FILM 

gunnery school sequences are straight realism. Then the convoy 
sets out: impressive music: commentary by the merchant 
seaman : fog : sailing between minefields : eyestrain by officers 
and men for the flashing light of the beacon which shows they 
are clear. The tension is developed by cross-cutting scenes 
from the bridge with the men conversing over the table below- 
decks. The light is seen. Music brightens. Fog clears, sun- 
shine, convoy going well, the young seaman keeps his eye on 
the gun. A conning-tower : development of tension as the 
seamen amuse themselves below : by-play with a gramophone. 
Submarine sighted — action stations — gramophone plays on for- 
gotten. Several shots: then a hit: fine roaring as submarine 
blows up. Then back to the serene, with fine rounding-off by 
the merchant-seaman commentator. 

The Grapes of Wrath: (Twentieth Century Fox, 1939. 

American. Director, John Ford) 

Theme. — The Dust Bowl; the emigration to the Calif ornian 
fruit-fields: man's inhumanity to man; the exploitation of 
poverty ; and the crushing of the attempt of labour to unionise. 

Story. — The Joad family pass through the valley of despair 
in a broken-down Ford: their adventures from Dust Bowl to 
California ; young Tom Joad sees his future as a Union organiser. 

Treatment and Technique. ---The most courageous social film 
Hollywood has ever produced, even though it is a somewhat 
emasculated version of Steinbeck's great novel. Fonda, Jane 
Darwell and John Carradine contribute very moving perform- 
ances. The early sequences are Russian in feeling with their 
sense of the roads and the earth, the long nostalgia of Tom 
Joad's return home from a jail-break in another state and the 
meeting with Casy, a preacher by the wayside crazy with anti- 
religion. The homestead, the return, the mother's emotion, the 
grandfather's madness, the sister-in-law's pregnancy and her 
husband's empty ambition and final desertion. The land bought 
up: the eviction; the tractor crushing the shack: the earlier 
wonderfully lit shots whilst Mrs. Joad burns her letters and her 
memories with the fire flashing over her face stricken with 
emotion. The journey: its rigours: its difficulties: the death 
of the grandmother : the deserts : the labour camps : the sense 
of social security and social duty in the Government camp 
contrasted with the pity and terror of life in the commercial 


abour camp with its starvation and exploitation : the children 
frightened by a lavatory which flushes in the well-run Govern- 
ment camp: Joad's manslaughter of a police deputy on the 
journey and fear of arrest after escape : the wages racket and 
undercutting through excess of labour : the fruit-fields' electrically 
barred and wired : the racketeers' police : the union meeting in 
the dark by the stream : the raid on the meeting and the death 
of Casy, preacher-turned-labour-organiser. Joad's last great 
scene with his mother whose maternal sense would hold him 
back from the future she is* proud to feel he will adopt. His 
mission of succour to the exploited and of organisation to con- 
quer conscienceless privilege. 

This is a great and memorable film, many sequences of which 
stand out for their beautiful cinematic treatment. 

Recent British production has been creating a fine tradition 
of documentary features. One of our Aircraft is Missing 
(British National, 1942 ; Director, Michael Powell), The Fore- 
man went to France (Ealing, 1942; Director, Charles Frend), 
Next of Kin (Ealing, 1942; Director, Thorold Dickinson), 
First of the Few (British Aviation Pictures, 1942; Director, 
Leslie Howard) and In Which we Serve (Two Cities, 1942; 
[Directors, Noel Coward and David Lean), are making a more 
khan spasmodic reputation for the British studios. Films such 
as these take the world as it is and graft on to the excitement of 
'current experience the values of a good story. It may well be 
that Britain will develop a school of documentary feature 
created out of the issues of the war which will earn her a reputa- 
tion in international commercial cinema equal to that which 
has been made abroad by British documentary in its more 
limited sphere of exhibition. 

A good deal of discussion has been raised about the use of 
the professional or non-professional actor in films which deal 
intimately with actuality. No one quarrels with the use of the 
professional in films where the occupational interest is not 
a definite part of the film's presentation : you need not put a 
salesman in a studio hat-store. But point comes into the 
argument in the case of The Harvest Shall Come, a British 
documentary of great merit where both agricultural skill and 
interest in the chief character's dramatised personality share the 
foreground of the film. John Slater, whose considerable acting * 

110 FILM 

quality is beginning to be recognised after a career of small 
parts, manages to dupe the townsman (" What ! Was he really 
an actor ? "), but does not always satisfy the over-critical eyes of 
the farmers and farm-workers for whom the film was partially 

On the other hand, the Crown Film Unit knows how to reduce 
its merchant seamen and R.A.F. personnel to the dead level of 
inconsequent realism until the mystified audiences exclaim 
" What ! Weren't they really actors after all ? " and hero- 
worship the R.A.F. and the merchant seamen all the more. 
How can the imperturbable sang-froid, the careless self-con- 
fidence, the cross-your-fingers-and-have-a-beer-old-man spirit 
survive the Crown Film Unit with its lights and cameras and 
microphones ? The answer lies in the careful choice of the 
men to be used, the comparatively little they have to say at any 
one time, and the British sang-froid, whieb probably is as much 
I-am-bored-with-the-whole-bloody-business-anyway as a self- 
controlled piece of acting before camera and microphone. And 
there is Pudovkin and his Mongols, which is a good story : 

" For example, in the film The Heir to Jenghiz Khan, I 
wanted to have a crowd of Mongols looking with rapture 
on a precious fox-fur. I engaged a Chinese conjuror and 
photographed the faces of the Mongols watching him. 
When I joined this piece to a piece of the shot of fur held 
in the hands of the seller I got the result required." (Pudov- 
kin, " Film Technique,'' p. 142.) 

It would be pleasant to think of Harry Watt using this 
technique with the R.A.F. 

Russia soon learned, however, to break good resolutions and 
have some actors who knew their job around the set. For ,as 
soon as it comes to acting which requires emotion continuously 
and carefully developed, the theory of the actor as plastic material 
in the hands of the director breaks down. The theory of 
sticking together the same faces with the same expression but 
with a different cutting tempo and calling the result a cine-study 
of hunger or sorrow or mother-love, ends where the emotion 
begins to develop, Where the face itself has to move with feeling 
and mean it. 

Documentary has got some remarkable acting results out of 


amateurs doing their jobs according to plan. It has been 
sensible enough not to ask them to do more. If a woman has 
jusf been through an air-raid she will probably look like it, but 
that is not acting. But if you want her to reconstruct the raid, 
to go through the processes instead of merely the results of 
emotion, then the imaginative forbearance*and technical control 
of the actress will be required unless both the director and his 
film are to grow grey. For the larger canvases of The Grapes 
of Wrath where personal situations are the means by which the 
theme itself is developed, only the actors and actresses will see 
the film through the box-office. And quite right, too, or what's 
the good of paying professionals the salaries we do ? 



Memory Test 

How do you remember the films you see ? How many do 
you see a year ? How many have you seen in your life ? How 
many more do you intend to see ? 

The film is about the most difficult of all arts to study. You 
can get a reasonable come-back of the experience of seeing 
sculpture through the flat photograph. Poems can be re-read. 
A gramophone will replay music. But the film? Hire a 
cinema and bribe a distributor. 

There are various ways of conquering this nuisance value of 
the film. They will be outlined elsewhere. There are organisa- 
tions — the British Film Institute in this country — which are 
devising ways of recapturing the film which has passed finally 
through the commercial projector-gate. 

Meanwhile, how do you remember films ? By their titles ? 
Hardly, unless you read the histories. By their stars ? Perhaps, 
but how separate the star into the different films all about the 
same star ? By the music ? Perhaps, if it is a French film. 
By the visuals ? Probably best of all ; one's memory can be 
full of flash-backs of scenes, moments only or sometimes 

How many pictures have you thought worth seeing twice? 
How many did you really see twice after all ? Do you go to 
sit in the cinema, or see the film ? If you have reached so far 
in this questionnaire, probably to see the film. 

Do you ever want to remember a. film? Would you go a, 
long way at personal inconvenience to see it again ? Do you 
read the film reviews (not publicity blurbs) to pick and choose 
your films each week ? Do you know the difference between the 
publicity and the truth ? 

Have you ever thought of noting down the films you have] 
enjoyed, and adding a word or two why, and the director's] 
name, and that shot which impressed you, and that piece of! 



build-up near the end when the sound was so good, and so on ? 
It might grow to a page if you liked the film. 

Have you ever written or phoned a cinema manager asking 
him if he is going to show a certain film ? 

But perhaps all this is too much like work anyway. The 
cinema is a place to slip into with a girl-friend, to be warm in 
when the heat's on, in which to have a good time and be damned 
to the world outside. And one film is as good as another, 
provided it has a kick to it of $ome sort. 

Provided it has — that is the beginning of selection, of criticism, 
in the end of better films and keener enjoyment. Which is 
better than paying like a mug to keep the producers lazy. 

But if you were doing that you would not be reading our 

So ,lodk through the lists of titles and directors on the chart 
on pages 181-186. They are not complete. They are the 
records of some good cinema, but not of all good cinema. 
Can you add to them ? How many of these films have added 
to your pleasure in the past ? 

By your selection and declared choice of what you pay to 
see your pleasure can be increased in the future. 

Part Two 


The civilisation of man might be measured by the manner in 
which he sets about planning and interpreting the flow of sense 
experiences which constitutes physical life. This planning and 
interpretation follow the bent of his philosophy — his common 
sense, or his temperamental make-up — combined with the 
habits of mind he has acquired from the society in which he 
lives, and the channels along which custom permits his instinctive 
energies to flow. Office routine is at once an act of temperament 
combined with social business convention. The act of creation 
and of participation in the arts is also an act of temperament 
combined with social convention. 

Most people participate in the .arts in herds. They form 
part of an audience at theatre or cinema : they share the same 
emotion provided by the artistic stimulus. Where they do not 
congregate for their art, they buy it on the group system and 
hang it in reproduction on their walls or stand it in their living- 
rooms! Sometimes if their temperament bends that way they 
leave the major groups for the minor and hang pictures on 
their walls which the major group, whose temperament would 
break if it bent too far, calls highbrow. This pleases the minor 
group and confirms them in the superiority of their group 
choice. But it remains a group choice all the same. 

Art in its widest aspect is a part of the instinct to order and 
interpret life, to isolate into some form of permanent and 
reliable experience the abominable flux of the universe. This 
aspect of civilisation the so-called primitive man shares with 
his so-called civilised brother, who is often only a dressed-up 
savage with the appurtenances of physical comfort and none 
of the true savage's dexterity and strength. That is why white 
men are always a little ashamed before the vigour of the native, 
and assume a superior air when talking in white ducks about 
their burden. The civilised whites give the blacks their due, 





md share experiences in bringing order to the mysterious chaos 
>f living. Variety is useful for the toughest job in the world. 
People who never use the word art in tljeir vocabulary take 
)art in it for a variety of reasons which might be listed as 
bllows : 

It is recreative: you feel better for seeing a good film or 
play. Your enjoyment revitalises the spirit, and the flesh 
is renewed. 

It is communal: you feel better for sharing a civilising 
experience with your fellow creatures. The gregarious 
urge is fulfilled, and not with those chill people with whom 
you work so unnaturally all day. 

It is aesthetically satisfying : there has been a sense of order 
in it — a beginning, middle and an end. Whether the end 
is tragic or comic matters little provided it is aesthetically 
right. This is another aspect of enjoyment and civilised 

\rt must satisfy these principles to be popular: it must be 
pommunal, it must be complete and ordered, it must be a 
recreation. And most often it is quite unselfconsciously all 
hese things without being thought " art " at all. 

Art with the capital A begins when the minority set out to 

hilosophise over their recreation, and when the creator becomes 

elfconscious about his work. Comparisons creep in and 

ifferent levels of enjoyment assert their varying merits. People 

ith the leisure to develop their temperaments and foster their 

usceptibilities begin to demand, not different satisfactions, but 

more complex forms of satisfactions than will be assimilable 

by the majority. Trouble begins when the more complex 

satisfaction looks down on the simpler satisfaction aftd asserts 

that its form of enjoyment is vulgar and insensitive and no art 

at all; whilst the simpler satisfaction looks down rather than 

up at the complex satisfaction with a raspberry and a what's- 

art-anyway attitude. 

The difference is purely in degrees of satisfaction, and, in a 
major artist's creation like Shakespeare's or Charlie Chaplin's, 
manages somehow to satisfy the whole range of demand. 

In the long view, therefore, no good will be served by quarrels 
between highbrow and lowbrow, with the medium-brow 
keeping a foot in both camps by thinking Shakespeare and Noel 




sta r 






116 FILM 

Coward awfully fine. No good will be served by being rude t<; 
Hollywood because its productions have box-office pull. I 
is far better to try to understand why Hollywood has box 
office pull, and whether its productions are really recreative 
communal, and aesthetically satisfying, box-office pull or no. 

Art, whether unselfconsciously popular like ballads, folk 
dancing, ballroom dancing, community singing, or developed 
to a degree which recreates the more highly civilised human 8ta! 
beings in their more highly civilised moments, must fulfil it: 
fundamental laws. Whether its philosophy be contemporary]^ 
common sense or in line with the most advanced thought of the 
time, if the quality of recreation is not present the audienceLji 
departs glum and thwarted. It is when I sense this glumness 
in a cinema audience that I am far more inclined to criticise 
the film than if the audience leaves in a mood of gaiety or quiet k 
elation. For good art at all levels is a stimulant which doesjjj, 
not demand lime juice in the morning: only more good art. 

The manner, or technique, of art is as important as the 
matter. A comparatively little matter, provided it is grounded 
on contemporary common sense, will see a well-made film 
through. The recreative instinct is fulfilled provided the 
technique does not seem to be wasted on worthless people. 
It is good to see Astaire and Rogers enjoy themselves dancing 
because they are nice people and can dance supremely well. The 
fact that they are nice people is, as it were, sufficient justification 
for the attention paid to them in the first place, and then their 
dancing comes as a glorious technical surprise which is an 
aesthetic joy to watch in a crowded house enjoying the dancing 
too. The highbrows relax and have their fun, though the 
next night they will get a more developed, because more complex, 
elation at a smaller theatre reviving The Grapes of Wrath. They 
will leave the theatre invigorated by the beauty of it all, by the 
complex satisfaction that in a world which is a chaos of cruelties 
^nd muddle, the human spirit can and does rise with energy 
and tolerance to prepare an" order with less cruelty and less 
muddle and less defeat of human goodness. And this is 
recreation indeed. 


It is a fact obvious to a regular cinema goer and review- 
reader that the average audience does not enjoy the average 


ilm to the extent of such recreation. Why, therefore, they go 
( o assiduously will be examined later. It is sufficient for the 
noment to examine the material provided. In a normal year 
ust before the war England and America released in this 
:ountry some six hundred feature-length films. All of these 
ilms were made by large staffs, and a deal of money was invested 
n each picture. Some are classed at the outset as main features : 
others, with less mpney assigned and mostly without top-line 
tars, are condemned at the outset to be second (or inferior) 
supporting ' pictures. This usually gives them an inferiority 
:omplex for a start. 

A hunt is always starting around to get six hundred stories to 
ell. These stories may come about in a variety of ways. One 
)f the boys may just think one up for himself — it is then called 
i screen story. Or maybe a famous play or novel will prove 
he groundwork for a film, and the conference gets to work to 
choose a star. Or maybe the stars are on contract anyhow 
with overhead salaries flowing out unless vehicles are found 
to exploit their talents for the period the contract runs. Or 
maybe the stars themselves find the script and choose the 
upporting players. Sometimes a famous author is contracted 
to go into conference with the scenario boys or wait uiisummoned 
n the bungalows and script-offices of Hollywood so that his 
name can appear as collaborator on the credits when the film 
s finished. Or maybe all this is libel. 

The ways of Hollywood are paved with good intentions. 
Ihey have an honest regard for the millions who pay to see 
their works. So by their works shall you know them. 

But wait a moment for the story of Luce, the American 
publisher and promoter of March of Time, who thought he 
ought to learn more about pictures, and so joined the Board 
of Directors of Paramount. From a thumbnail biography in 
'' The New Yorker " we learn that: 

" For a time, Luce was on Board of Directors of Para- 
mount Pictures. Hoped to learn something of cinema, 
heard nothing discussed but banking, resigned sadly." 
(" New Yorker," Nov. 28, 1936.) 

Why is it we always get back to money ? Why is it that the 
best continuous cinematic tradition has been made where the 
background money counted for least in the directors' minds — 

118 FILM 

in German silent cinema, in French sound cinema, in Russian 
state cinema, in British documentary ? Why is it that if Holly- 
wood has produced some 15,000 feature films (it can hardly 
be less) it would be difficult to pick out 500 memorable titles 
in any category of first-class entertainment ? 

The answer lies in production policy. It is absurd to say 
that with all the elaboration of the production executive Holly- 
wood does not watch its public. On the other hand, the 
weekly numbers are so huge (60-70 per cent, of the population 
in America; 50 per cent, in Great Britain) that the public is 
extremely difficult to watch. None the less fluctuations do 
occur in cinema attendance, not in the aggregate for the week, 
but as between the various ' attractions ' at the various houses. 
The golden rule has, therefore, become the box-office rule: 
what will they pay to -see in sufficient quantity ? 

Now for reasons which we will consider later, rather than 
see nothing at all, many people are content to see anything, a 
factor of importance, and point number one against the box- 
office rule. For reasons of a similar kind, the cinema with jj 
the most comfort or luxury to offer will act as a draw : people 
will pay to sit in it whatever it may show: point number two. 
Point number three is that a film will sell on its star, and judg- 
ment be warped by the degree of attraction a sellable personality 
and appearance can exercise on the mass. 

Production policy, however, has to satisfy the Board of 
Directors. For the Board the profit motive is the only motive 
which counts. Prestige may occasionally outweigh expediency, 
and some seemingly worthwhile production (Shakespeare for 
instance) be given a try-out. Art with a capital A has its due, 
and sometimes the box-office endorses the choice. Often it 
does not when the choice was ill-made. But the Board is 
interested in investments primarily, and, for the social themes 
of its films, in the status quo. It will not promote controversial 

Renter and Exhibitor are in the same situation. The renter 
watches the films and tries to contact the weak with the strong. 
To get so-and-so (strong) you must take so many so-and-soes 
(weak). When the market is bad the ratio may be one strong 
to six weak. 

The larger houses are usually on. circuit, which means in 
effect that they are linked in a large or small chain of cinemas. 




lere the manager has little chance on the whole to book what 
le or his public want. He takes what his circuit gives him, 
hough a good circuit headquarters watches his advice. With 
Urns booked in blocks or allocated in series individuality of 
howmanship is at a standstill. 

Production policy, with all this between it and its massive 
tudierice, is conservative and inelastic. Trouble seems to be 
aken in only a minority of films to make them audience- worthy 
nd recreative. Anything passes for entertainment, and 
xhibitor and audience alike cry out for progress. But pro- 
luction policy, rigid to the last, forbids progress in the name 
tf box-office. 

To sell their films in which they do not believe, elaborate" 
mblicity blurbs are prepared for the trade itself, and for the 
>ublic in the picture magazines and screen trailers. Bombarded 
>y adjectives and flashes of stars in laughter and panic, the 
tudience is sold bad films and good with equal bombast. High- 
pot hooey sells every film on the same level of hysteria to a 
tolid house. An atmosphere of romantic scandal is allowed 
o surround the lives of the glamour-stars, until the Hays Office 
uns a purity campaign, when the quietude of their luxurious 
iomestic lives is surrounded with lilies. 

Small wonder, therefore, that the films are usually hectic 
ather than recreative, that entertainment is often thought of 
n terms of the interests of the production boys and girls them- 
elves, with the lid put on by the Hays Office. Entertainment 
s, therefore, largely made up of: 

(a) Handsome men getting their girls (without or with 


(b) Handsome girls getting their men (with or without 


(c) Handsome clothes and handsome surroundings (luxury). 

(d) Absence of clothes from women, and to a lesser degree 

from men (sex). 

(e) Ambiguous situations involving sex issues k 

(/) Excitement deriving from crime (gangsters) and cruelty 

(g) Excitement deriving from the detection of crime. 
(h) Excitement deriving from extreme physical danger. 
(0 Excitement deriving from crude supernaturalism. 

120 FILM 


(J) Belly-laughs deriving from domestic incompatibilities. 

(k) Belly-laughs deriving from naughty children. 

(/) Belly-laughs deriving from ham silliness (knock-about 

(m) Belly-laughs deriving from the flouting of authority 

(sergeants, policemen, magistrates, mothers-in-law). 
{n) Sentimentality deriving from patriotism and private duty | f 

(service versus love). 
(o) Sentimentality deriving from children and babies and 

(p) Sentimentality deriving from mother-love and betrayed 

(q) Curiosity about foreign people with fake customs and 

accents (Chinatown, natives, etc.). 
(r) Curiosity about strange ways and strarige glamorous 

institutions (Foreign Legion, Convents, etc.). 
(s) Curiosity about fake science and art (personalities, not 

(/) Awe at religious beings and fake-mysticism (Lamas pre- 
ferred to parsons). 
{u) Awe at the divinity of the love of beautiful women (well 

(v) Awe at anything other-worldly and glamorously unspoken 

but oh so true. 

I submit that without finishing the alphabet this covers the 
bulk of Hollywood's endeavour. I do not say that the results 
are .not often entertaining. What I submit is that the greater 
bulk of all this leaves you nowise different from when you 
went in, except perhaps a bit glummer the morning after. It 
is stimulant without recreation: entertainment without relish. 
And it is made by people, who hold down good money for making 
it, and would often gladly make better if only they dared. And 
when occasionally they do, they are so surprised at their success, 
that they copy and recopy themselves way back into the old 
gags and attitudes and thank God for experiment and daring. 
And if they take a sally at Art with a capital A and make hay 
of it, then they sink back secure in their box-office winners, 
because they knew it would be no good anyway before they 
started. And they are bitterly hurt if you call it a racket, and 
if you talk Russia and France they think you a sap. 



A letter written by Frank Capra to the " New York Times " 
April 2nd, 1939) and quoted by Margaret Thorp in " America 
t the Movies " reveals the stranglehold the promoter-producer 
st-up has over the creative freedom of the director. Capra 
/rites as President of the Directors' Guild, which was formed 
1936 to combat the middleman who controls the director's 
btivities, as producer or associate producer. Cap/a says : 

" There are only half a dozen directors in Hollywood 
who are allowed to shoot as they please and who have 
any supervision over their editing. 

" We all agree with you when you say that motion 
pictures are the director's medium. That is exactly what 
it is, or should be. We have tried for three years to 
establish a Directors' Guild, and the only demands we have 
made on the producers as a Guild were to have two weeks' 
preparation for ' A ' pictures, one week preparation time 
for f B ' pictures, and to have supervision of just the first 
rough cut of the picture. 

" You would think that in any medium that was the 
director's medium the director would naturally be conceded 
these two very minor points. We have only asked that 
the director be allowed to read the script he is going to 
do and to assemble the film in its first rough form for 
presentation to the head of the studio. It has taken three 
years of constant battling to achieve any part of this. 

" We are now in the process of closing a deal between 
director and producer which allows us the minimum of 
preparation time but still does not give us the right to 
assemble our pictures in rough form, but merely to assemble 
our sequences as the picture goes along. This is to be 
done in our own time, meaning, of course, nights and 
Sundays, and no say whatever in the final process of 

" I would say that eighty per cent, of the directors today 
shoot scenes exactly as they are told to shoot them without 
any changes whatsoever, and that ninety per cent, of them 
have no voice in the story or in the editing. Truly a sad 
situation for a medium that is supposed to be the director's 

" All of us realise that situation and some of us are 


122 FILM 

trying to do something about it by insisting upon produce! 
director set-ups, but we don't get any too much encourage 
ment along this line. Our only hope is jthat the success o 
these producer-director set-ups will give others the guts t« 
insist upon doing likewise." (Quoted in " America at th 
Movies," pp. 146-7.) 

The fact that only directors of the calibre of Capra and Fort 
are allowed producer status led Capra to initiate a strike-threa 
by the Guild in February 1939. This obtained for the lesse 
directors some short leeway of preparation time with pa> 
before shooting, but it has not yet given them the right tt 
handle their material from start to finish, from story-conceptioi 
to cutting-bench. The British industry maintains the produce: 
system, but the better directors have greater freedom of creative 

And then when you think you'll give it all up, a good file 
comes along, a really good film, right in the teeth of the opposi 
tion. And it wasn't made by an independent scratching arount 
for finance. It was made by the big shots themselves — foi 
profit. And it has everything in it which makes recreation-j 
wit, charm, tolerance, gaiety, sensitive understanding of thi 
smaller human details, love and tenderness and human affection 
kindliness and gracious living. How did it happen? A 
producer, a director, a scenarist, a star ? It does not mattea 
one's confidence is restored: and one endures once more tl% 
crashing of trumpets and braying of shawms until the nJ 
miracle breaks. 


Publicity for the Exhibitors' Trade itself knows no limiti 
" It's the larst vord in pitchers," said a film salesman to me aj 
a Trade Preview, thinking I was an exhibitor. I have beei] 
looking for that famous " larst vord " ever since in the elaborate 
spreads of the Trade Press, of whose formulas these are typic| 
examples : 

" It's fun and frolic, it's music and romance, in a fro2 
paradise — but it's got sizzling pay-box temperature !] 

" A story as lovable as Mr. Deeds goes to Town, as gre 


as only a Capra, a Cooper, a Barbara Stanwyck can make 
it ! While thousands sweep across the screen, drama 
reaches new heights and Capra achieves his finest pro- 
duction with a direct hit straight to the hearts of the world's 
leaderless legions of ' Little Men.' " {Meet John Doe.) 

" It's a scorcher ! -it's a sizzler ! It's punch-packed 
with Melody ! Comedy ! Romance ! " {The Gay City.) 

" Paramount's up-to-the-minute Blitz romance — whirling 
from our bombed London to gay Lisbon ! " {One Night 
in Lisbon.) 

" A boy with a sock — a girl with a heart — a picture with 
a punch ! " {Knockout.) 

" The first picture to lay bare a woman's mind ! " 
{Shining Victory.) 

" Where men asked no questions-'-women revealed no 
pasts — no mercy expected ! " {A Man's World.) 

" What every woman knows — and no man can under- 
stand ! " {Unfinished Business.) 

'' The larst vord in pitchers." I should ask when. 


Against all this ballyhoo the major critics, like Lilliputians 
hting a mad elephant with hygienic arrows, have set the war 
standards. In their own peculiar way and style they have 
lght since silent days for good films, and have sat through 
>usands of trade shows in search of the better things of 

"Just often enough to keep a man from giving up 
religion, some small miracle will come along. A lot of us 
sourpuss commentators who are reputed to look on pictures 
through the jaundiced eye of intellect, and to pan every- 
thing on the principle of preserving superiority, are really 
soft soulers with an anxious love for cinema ; we go along 
protesting that the tripe doesn't really count, and keeping 
alive that little flame of faith in the possibility of the movie 
as the art with the largest common denominator. And 
every once in a while a film quietly made, no drums of 

- 124 FILM 

Anthony Adverse, no bugles of Romeo and Juliet, slip|N 
through the mill, and we see the thing and experience El 
slight sense of strangeness, and after a while we remember! ^ 
rather than realise, that we've seen a picture that demon! je 
strates that our own theories are quite possible, quifof 1 
possible." (" Garbo and the Night-Watchmen," p. 119.) 

This ray of hope comes from Meyer Levin, an Americar 
critic anthologised in Alistair Cooke's brilliant collection oj 
Anglo-American film criticism, " Garbo and the Night- Watch 
men." Through the hail of publicity and the shower of stai, 
glory — (" The furore which has accompanied the producing] 
promoting and exhibiting of A Midsummer Night's Dream could 
if properly harnessed, have prevented the Ethiopian war," says 
Robert Forsythe, batting for America) — they have steadily 
publicised what they thought good and castigated, pulverised) 
debunked andderided what they thought evil or merely absurd] 
Sometimes they feel that judgment falters before the perpetual 
hypnosis of mediocrity. Writing in 1929 Mr. Robert HerrinJ 
says : 


" Not a single one of these films is as good as it ought 
to be, yet there is something to be said for all of therm 
They are, in fact, distressing examples of the tendency oj 
the whole cinema, which is evolving an alloy that it is still 
a little hard to reject entirely. In those old days whicB 
we are now hearing so much about, films were so bad than 
. one could reject them, whilst seeing through to what the* 
hinted at. Then came a few one could accept. There is j 
now none among the average releases that one can eithea 
refuse or welcome. That is why, among other reasonsl 
talkies are welcome. They set us back again to the day! 
of out-and-out vulgarity and stupidity, sometimes avoidinJ 
both, and one still has hope that the next phase of efficienl 
mediocrity may be leapt. But the general run of films 
shows them to be all- so competent and so hopelessly 
un-worth-while, and that is a sign of loss of youth, 
(" Garbo and the Night- Watchmen," pp. 29-30.) 

These opinions the critics have expressed in the more 
less influential magazines and weekly press. What is servetj 
to the masses in the dailies has normally been chicken feed fron 


romoter's publicity or uninformed film chat for gossip columns, 
[istorians like Paul Rotha in Britain, Bardeche and Brassilach 
i France, and Lewis Jacobs in America have put order into 
Le transitory chaos of cinema progress. But only the converts 
;ad their books, whereas thousands read the criticism of Lejeune 
id Dilys Poweli and William Whitebait and Edgar Anstey and 
te writers in Cooke's anthology. A steady body of public 
pinion is gathering itself together which reads informed 
iticism before it selects its cinema. But its growing numbers 
e small against the vast collective queues that stand in the 
in to buy three hours of warmth, comfort and star-solace for 
/es spent in factories and counting-houses or shopping in 
smal little streets. 

This is open for everybody's opinion, yours, mine and the 
lychologist round the corner talking without contact to a man 
ho's been in " pitchers " since 1908. Miss Elizabeth Bowen in 
haries Davy's excellent " Footnotes to the Fikn " provides a 
alistic answer. 

" I go to the cinema for any number of different reasons 
—these I ought to sort out and range in order of their 
importance. At random, here are a few of them : I go to 
be distracted (or 'taken out of myself); I go when I 
don't want to think; I go when I do want to think and 
need stimulus; I go to see pretty people; I go when I 
want to see life ginned up, charged with unlikely energy ; 
I go to laugh; I go to be harrowed; I go when a day 
has been such a mess of detail that I am glad to see even 
the most arbitrary, the most preposterous, pattern emerge ; 
I go because I like bright light, abrupt shadow, speed; I 
go to see America, France, Russia; I go because I like 
wisecracks and slick behaviour; I go because the screen 
is an oblong opening into the world of fantasy for me ; 
I go because I like story, with its suspense; I go because 
I like sitting in a packed crowd in the dark, among hundreds 
riveted on the same tiling ; I go to have my most general 
feelings played on. These reasons, put down roughly, 
seem to fail under five headings : wish to escape, lassitude, 
sense of lack in my nature or my surroundings, loneliness 

126 FILM 

(however passing) and natural frivolity." (" Footnote: 
to the Film," p. 205.) 

Miss Bowen has had the courage to put herself in with th( 
lowest common multiple. 

Mr. Sidney Bernstein, from the enlightened exhibitors' side 
tried tlie experiment of measuring public reception by a question- 
naire method. He distinguishes in an article for "Footnotes, 
to the Film " between the gaga and the film-fan. The gaga's 

"... approach to the film is one of identification. Foi 
him the hero is the answer to his own day-dreams and the 
picture a world which causes the realities around him 
dissolve for a while. The films are his release from th^ 
frustrations of a dull day." (" Footnotes to the Film,' • 
p. 225.) 

The film-fan class, a smaller proportion of the audience} 
is increasing in number. 

" His critical faculty is developing, he can distinguish 
between good and bad photography and knows something 
of the technique of film-making. Sometimes he can evefl 
differentiate between the good and bad acting of his 
favourite stars. He is acquiring some degree of articulate! 
ness in the correspondence columns of his fan magazine! 
and is eager for pertinent information." (" Footnotes tffl 
the Film," p. 224.) 

The gaga audience brings to the cinema an urgent bodiW 
as well as psychological need which cannot be overlooked. 

"As a social institution, the local cinema represent 
to a section of the population the peak of glamour. Warmtfl 
and colour are to be had there; there are pleasurabll 
distractions; there are comfort, richness, variety. ThJ 
cinema is so often the poor man's sole contact with luxury! 
the only place where he is made to feel a sense of self* 
importance. With his ninepence in his hand he is able to 
command something approximating to the attention and 
service which is part of the pattern of the rich man's every! 
day life. The West End picture-goer and the film critic 
should bear in mind that his own appreciation of the cinema 
is not typical or general. Not only the film programmed 


but the deep carpets, the bright lights, the attention " fit 
for a king," are the weekly delights of the majority of 
picture-goers." (" Footnotes to the Film," p. 230.) 

The film-fan, on the other hand, picks and chooses with a 
owing sense of what he likes and dislikes. He works on the 
hole from stars, and sometimes directors, out to themes and 
ories. His taste in themes varies according to locality in 
>me instances. Scarface and Fury are more popular in pro- 
tarian than in bourgeois districts. 

Mr. Bernstein points out an important fact about the box- 
flee measurement of success. 

" The fact that there is no general outcry against the 
standard of entertainment which is offered at the cinema 
is not a sure indication that the majority of films are up * 
to the level of public taste. A more accurate deduction 
can be drawn from the fact that, of the five hundred films 
issued in any one year, only six or so are record-breakers 
at the box-office, whilst another twelve, perhaps, produce 
excellent receipts and another twenty good receipts." 
(" Footnotes to the Film," p. 223.) 

From the critic's angle, Mr. Meyer Levin makes an important 
itement on what seems now to be an acknowledged part of 
lema psychology — screen hypnosis. 

" I rarely walk out on a picture, and never want to walk 
out on a simple programme picture. It is only the more 
pretentious cinema efforts, the ones that try to be some- 
thing besides just another movie, that may stimulate me 
to walking out. Such pictures attain a kind of individuality, 
and if it happens to be the kind of individuality that rubs ■ 
me the wrong way, the spell is broken and I want to walk 
out. But even in the most obnoxious picture, I can feel 
the basic, physical hypnosis of the medium. I Want to 
sit and let the thing roll on and on, but there is the con- 
flicting desire to get up and out of the room invaded by 
the personality of some actor, or by some idea I dislike. 

"Now, I know I'm not alone in feeling this hypnotic, 
habit-forming need for the movie. Sociologists, through 
the activity of social service workers, have in the past few 
years secured a fairly wide acceptance of the idea that the 

128 FILM 

motion picture is a necessity, rather than a luxury, to the 
population. It is no longer a shock when a relief clienj 
confesses that a quarter out of the minimum-standard-foodi 
budget allowance for the week is devoted to the purchase 
of movie tickets. 

" We are all familiar with the escape-mechanism theory 
as an explanation for this strange need. Perhaps it is the 
complete and the proper explanation. An escape once a 
week into the other-world of the films, and the heart is 
able to go on. I think there is something more involved 
than simple escape; I think the need for congregation is 
there, the need to feel one's self in a room with othei 
folks, sharing a common experience; and also a kind of 
religious experience in confronting the unnatural togethei 
with other folks. Something primitive, like what make! 
a bunch of savages gather together and watch a witcfcl 

" Too, there is the factor which those who have recentll 
looked at Veblen, will call conspicuous consumption. Thl 
need to show one's self spending money for something thai 
is not as obviously necessary as food. This is a secondari 
factor, for it cannot be operative in the screening roonl 
to which we are admitted free; so below this spending 
factor must be some really elemental, sensory effect of thl 
moving picture. 

" Maybe it is simple hypnotism. The hypnotist holds 
an object before the eye — some shining object, that flickers! 
reflecting light. The willing subject keeps his eye fixe<$ 
in this single focus. And the hypnotist drones out somejh 
thing simple, something familiar. There is no element of^ 
surprise. The subject knows exactly what is coming next* ^ 
The hypnotist is going to repeat the same phrase, over arjT 
over — go to sleep, sleep, sleep — or he is going to repeat 
it in established, progressive variation, as in counting. Hi 
is not going to skip any numbers. 

" And presently, the subject is in a trance state, freed 
of responsibility, freed of himself, happily guided by ail 
outside force. He is often disappointed when the spell is 

" Maybe that is why people want to sit in the thea 
and see two pictures instead of one. Periodically, tl 


craze for dual programmes returns to plague the theatre 
exhibitors. And as the dual-craze progresses, more and 
more pictures are made in the secondary category, fill- 
time pictures which exemplify the trance factor most 
perfectly. Pictures like The Luckiest Girl in the World, or 
Adventure in Manhattan, or Without Orders, or The Isle of 
Fury, or what's that little picture I saw yesterday. They 
roll along, and you would be really shocked if they should 
roll out of the routine. It would be like a pulp story 
turning Faulkner." (" Garbo and the Night-Watchmen," 
pp. 124-6.) 

Hypnosis breeds an uncritical tolerance, provided the girl 
nd the seat are comfortable. 

" The point I am making is one I have made often before : 
to wit, that familiarity with motion pictures breeds tolerance. 
Coming upon them after a long absence, one is likely to 
blink the eye and be amazed that such nonsense can be 
accepted peaceably by human beings. After a period of 
regular attendance, the spectator begins to make the com- 
parisons which are fatal to his intellectual integrity. He 
begins to convince himself that while the particular movie 
before him is awful, it is not worse than something seen 
last week." (" Garbo and the Night-Watchmen," pp. 

In other words, the public has no formalised list of the 
lings it wants, and to a lesser degree, is fairly tolerant in the 
jircumstances of being shown what it does not want. Mr. 
rraham Greene unconsciously takes up Mr. Bernstein's point 
bout the fallibility of box-office measurement in a criticism of 
le private emotionalism of Bing Crosby. 

" Bing Crosby mournfully croons. That is the common 
idea of popular entertainment, a mild self-pity, something 
soothing, something gently amusing. The film executive 
still thinks in terms of the ' popular ' play and the ■ popular ' 
novel, of a' limited middle-class audience, of the tired 
business man and the feminine reader. The public which 
rattles down from the North to Wembley with curious hats 
and favours, tipsy in charabancs, doesn't, apparently, ask 
to be soothed : it asks to be excited. It was for these that 

p.— 5 

130 FILM 

the Elizabethan stage provided action which could arouse 
as communal a response as bear-baiting. For a populai* 
response is not the sum of private excitements, but mass 
feeling, mass excitement, the Wembley roar, and it is the 
weakness of the Goldwyn Girls that they are as private 
an enjoyment as the Art Photos a business man may turnl 
over in the secrecy of his study; the weakness of Bing 
Crosby's sentiment, the romantic nostalgia of ' Emptyj 
saddles in the old corral,' that it is by its nature a private} 
emotion." (" Garbo and the Night- Watchmen," ppj 
* 222-3.) 

What the public really wants is excitement. 

" * People want to be taken out of themselves,' the filrn| 
executive retorts under the mistaken impression that thel 
critic is demanding a kind of Zola-esque realism — as if! 
Webster's plays were realistic. Of course he is right! 
People are taken out of themselves at Wembley. But l\\ 
very much doubt if Bing Crosby does so much. ' They! 
don't want to be depressed,' but an excited audience is] 
never depressed : if you excite your audience first, you cam 
put over what you will of horror, suffering, truth. Bull 
there is one question to which there is no answer. Howfl 
dare we excite an audience, a producer may well ask, whecff 
Lord Tyrrell, the President of the Board of Censors, forjfl 
bids us to show any controversial subject on the screen ? '1 
(" Garbo and the Night- Watchmen," p. 224.) 

On excitement, in the form of Boris KarlofF, Mr. Don HerokL| 
has the last succinct word. 

" Nature must have placed within each of us a certain 
definite appetite for the horrible, otherwise there wouldn't! 
be tabloid newspapers, and there wouldn't be such crowd 
around sick horses, and there wouldn't be so many terrc 

" I can't quite figure why we should pay real money atj 
a box-office to have somebody scare us half out of skir 
and wits or to put us on the verge of a nervous breakdown 
Goodness sakes alive, 1 don't have to hire anybody to 
drag me to the verge of a nervous breakdown; I live there 


but I suppose some people live miles back from one all the 
time and have an actual hunger for the jitters. 

" An immense number of scream and screech pictures 
seem to have been batting around, this past month, and I 
guess I had better hand in a theme about them. I hope I 
get an ' A .' 

•■ Personally, I would never (if I weren't a hired movie 
sitter) (this work is not at all unlike sitting as a decoy in 
a Coney Island bus at so much per hour) place two bits 
on a box-officf window-sill to see one of these chillers. 
Yet millions of my fellow men pay dough to get in to see 
these spoovies. Lon Chaney was always surefire at the 
box-office, and Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff are Clark 
Gable to a lot of people. (Clark Gable is usually Boris 
Karloff to me.) My own idea of fun is to see Fred Astaire 
or Charles Butterworth or W. C. Fields or even Stan Laurel, 
but maybe I'm just a scaredy-cat. 

"I suppose that the satisfaction lots of people get in 
watching hair-raising movies is in seeing something going 
on in the world that is worse than their home life." 
(" Garbo and the Night- Watchmen," pp. 68-9.) 

Women still form the majority of the cinema's patrons — 
here are more genuinely tired working women and housewives 
han weary business men at the pictures. Women are interested 
n other women, clothes, houses and men. Cecilia Ager 
vatches pictures from the first two angles and writes with 
cid in the ink. She is cruel to Miss Matthews. 

" It would almost seem in Head Over Heels in Love that 
she louses up her possibilities on purpose. She has a bony 
chest, so she wears deep wide-V neckline to give every 
knob a break. She has a well-shaped head, so she coifs 
her bobbed hair to stick out and away from the smooth 
contour of her crown and thus conceal it, even wearing 
a poke-bonnet with a shirred brim and no crown so that 
her hair can stick out good and thoroughly. It's been 
years since a chorus girl in a third-rate floor-show would 
even dream of tying floppy bows on her tap-dancing 
slippers, so now Miss Matthews is just taking it up. She 
has a lovely waistline, gracefully and accurately placed, 
so she wears white satin blouses and black velvet shorts 

132 FILM 

that stop somewhere around her hips in an effort to move 
her waistline down. Her dancing is delightful and her legs 
superb, so she sings all the time so that everybody will 
be sure to note that her teeth are large and irregular and 
her lower jaw unequal to the arch of her upper. Funda- 
mentally it's so agreeable to watch Miss Matthews, it< 
really ought to be made a bland delight." (" Garbo and 
the Night- Watchmen," p. 305.) 

She is kind, after all, to Miss Crawford. 

" Now she quietly looks any actor, no matter how English, 
straight in the eye, confident of the mastered casualness ; 
of her own pronunciation. Nobody's coiffure is more[ 
cleanly swept-off-the-brow, more intent upon character and | 
therefore disdainful of artificial coquetry, than hers; 
nobody's wardrobe more starkly simple — but only on the, 
surface, mind. That calm and repose she's now achieved, 
that feeling of firm ground beneath her feet, must not be 
mistaken for just pure simplicity. Far from it. It wells 
from knowledge— from knowledge, at last, gained the hard 
way. No more do 'beans' — for ' beens '— jut out from 
her speech naked and terrified ; no more do unresolved 
trimmings distract from the compact and self-contained 
silhouette of her clothes. Still self-conscious but with a 
new self-assurance that shows her self-consciousness is only 
an expression of her awareness of her duty of high-class- 
example-setter to her public — instead of the mark of self- 
doubt it used to be — now Miss Crawford goes about doing 
right things, wearing right things, with deafening poise. 
Now her quality asserts itself from the inside out7 instead 
of insisting on itself with externals ; and the whole show 
is much more convincing, besides being a lot easier on 
everybody and cosier to watch." (" Garbo and the Night- 
Watchmen," pp. 301-3.) 

A picture can set a hair-style or build a new costume-line. 
The market watches the cinema, and the cinema has been known 
to watch the market. Things to Come started a new craze in 
beach-wear ahead .of its time — the penalty of forecast in dress 
design. Though the dresses and make-up and coiffeurs leave 
the girls pondering and their mothers muttering what will they 


leave off or put on next, there is no doubt that the fashion- 
demands shape themselves to the sweep of this star's hipline 
and the uplift of that star's figure. 

And so there we are back where we started from; the 
audience is receptive, but apart from the film-fans, generally un- 
critical and averse from using much intelligence from its own 
side of the screen. It expects to be excited, thrilled, amused, 
and emotionally lit-up. If in the process of fulfilling these 
heeds a director slips in an idea, it will not matter if the situation 
keeps up the tension. If the ideas are strong or continuous, 
as in Citizen Kane or The Grapes of Wrath, then the suburban 
or provincial audience begins to cast around for something to 
tetUgh at. So this makes the directors wary. King Vidor 
ays about The Wedding Night: 

" Artistry does not consist of making a film that only a 
limited group of people can understand. Rather, we must 
seek a great common denominator, a means of telling a 
story that is understandable to all classes of audiences— 
the poor, rich, old, young, European and American. One 
must hold to human emotions to achieve this goal, because 
emotions are universal and can be understood by every 
human being. . . . Emotions can be portrayed by a gesture, 
a facial expression, a step or two, a lifted eyebrow. The 
complexity of sophisticated people makes such simple 
expressions impossible. To explain their situations, one 
must go into long dialogue, movement must stop, each 
point of the story must be told by the characters in detail. 
Speed, movement, and reality vanish. In the picture I 
have just completed, The Wedding Night, I have followed 
the same formula." (" Garbo and the Night-Watchmen," 
pp. 102-3.) 

Hitchcock says generally : 

" I must say that in recent years I have come to make 
much less use of obvious camera devices. I have become 
more* commercially-minded; afraid that anything at all 
subtle may be missed. I have learnt from experience how 
easily small touches are overlooked. 

" In a film you keep your whole action flowing; you can 
have comedy and drama running together and weave them 

134 FILM 

in and out. Audiences are much readier now than the> i. 
used to be for sudden changes of mood ; and this means * 
more freedom for a director. The art of directing for the 
commercial market is to know just how far you can go. 
In many ways I am freer now to do what I want to do than 
I was a few years ago. I hope in time to have more freedom .' ^ 
still — if audiences will give it to me." (" Footnotes to the 
Film," pp. 10 and 15.) 



We had better wind the forum up with a quotation from 
one of the trade papers, " Kinematograph Weekly." This 
epitomises the Exhibitor's angle on the subject. 

" When people stop to think they realise that the power 
of the screen is directly dependent upon the fact that about 
25 million patrons every week pay for admission to our 
kinemas because they want to be amused. They are satis- 
fied or they would cease to attend. . . . 

" But what is the real desire of the kinema patron? If f] 
anybody takes the trouble to inquire he will find it is to 
get away from 'the whole nasty business for a couple of 
8 hours — to live in another world and build up resistance to 
the wearying anxieties of the day by enjoying a spell of 

" Call it ■ escapism ' — why not ? What else is there in 
any form of mental relief from hard conditions outside ? 
And so long as the world can get this relief, however 
temporary, so long is the kinema doing a good service. 
When it is necessary to inflame the public passions or 
fears, let us find some other medium than the kinema." 
("Kinematograph Weekly," Thurs., Sept. 4th, 1941, 
Editorial, p. 4.) 

Attendance statistics of the cinema in this country and 
America outclass any other available national attendance. In 
America it is calculated that over 80 millions (near 70 per cent 
of the population) attend the cinema weekly. In this country, 
with a substantial war increase, some 22 to 25 millions attend 
weekly, nearly 60 per cent of the population. In assessing 
these estimates one must allow for the small age-groups at 


ither end of the scale — infancy and old age — which cannot be 
ffective potential audience, and that many people attend the 
inema more than once a week. 

The weekly statistics of juvenile attendance in this country 
re about 4^ millions; in America 11 millions. Many children 
o to the cinema two or even three times a week. In a normal 
chool survey very few go once a month or never at all. 

Many cinemas in this country, notably the Odeon circuit, 
ave experimented with children's matinees, usually on Saturday 
nornings. Here the staple make-up. of the programme is the 
artoon, the serial, the interest picture and the more-or-less 
uitable feature originally made for adults. 

The Board of Censors, working along its own lines, awards* 
ilms in this country three types of certificate, a U, an A, and 
n H. Any child can see a Universal certificated film ; any 
hild can see an Adult certificated picture when accompanied 
>y a bona-fide parent or guardian (the way the children pick 
lp their bona-fides on the cinema doorstep is notorious); no 
hild under sixteen is allowed to see an H film. 

On the whole, this classification from the child's angle is a 
ound one. Investigations by the Trade, social workers and 
psychologists alike go to prove that the dangers to children 
ire on the whole slight except from the point of view of the 
ypical H film. The cinema is the medium for excitement and 
children live on excitement, which is the main reason why they 
50 to the pictures. Even their attitude to humour is largely 
>ased on excitement. The sexual element does not really enter 
he normal child's line of country until the approach of adoles- 
:ence. Then the partially clothed woman stirs repressed 
nterests in the awakening male, and the adolescent girl gets a 
>ash for a film-star and a precocious taste for make-up and 
dnematic clothes. 

Most of the sex situations and innuendoes of dialogue pass 
:he child by as so much waste time. " The Film in National 
Life " quotes a Methodist minister : " I know that many good- 
vell-meaning people — and associations as well — believe that the 
nfluence of the films is a bad one . . . ; even the sex film may 
io no harm, for the simple reason that a child does not under- 
hand half what is being said. Passionate kisses simply give 
hem the giggles. What I do object to is coarseness — not the 
Rabelaisian coarseness, which does not seem to be particularly 

136 FILM 


harmful — but the crude, sneaking coarseness which the children 
recognise at once." 

Disney's Snow White was given an A certificate by the Board, 
which caused much controversy in the press and much certifi- 
cate revision by local authorities. Disney, of course, has never 
set out to be a film-maker for children. It is the children who 
have adopted Disney, despite the horrific element, symbolic of 
evil, which is an essential part of the Disney folklore. In Snow 
White an A certificate was given as a warning to child and 
parent that an horrific element was to be expected: an H 
certificate would have kept the children away from what every- 
body persisted in thinking was a children's film. 

The element of horror has the worst effect on children as 
far as the content of the screen is concerned. Children who in) 
moments of personal fantasy can be astonishingly brutal to; 
other children and animals, do not like violence when it is 1st 
directed at themselves. The horrific element in screen fiction 
is frequently so presented as to give the audience as great ai|F 
shock as the victim in the drama. Richard Ford describes; 
frightened children in the cinema : "... there is usually a tensd 
hush when children are frightened during a film, and they hold 
their breath, with small restrained squeaks, while they grip the 
edges or arm of the seat. The noise of healthy screaming^ 
during a chase scene is entirely different." But this type of 
fear is rare, and in a questionnaire to 142 managers responsible 'Jjc 
for the Odeon children's matinees, 83 per cent, stated that the* 
children were never frightened by incidents in cartoons, and'f 
61 per cent, that the children were never frightened by incidents \ 
in serials. The lists of the rather obvious things (spiders, If 
horrific animal close-ups, grotesque faces, King Kong and |l 
clutching hands, extreme danger to screen favourites) provided -| 
by the minority of managers are probably justified in con-j 
sideration of the more sensitive child, whether boy or girl. 
. The dangers to the adult (and especially the impressionable j 
not-yet-worldly-wise adolescent) are far greater, though always | 
to be seen in the light of the fundamental common sense of the 
people as a whole, who know the difference between a picture 
and real life, and, indeed, are rather affronted when in films 
like The Grapes of Wrath and Citizen Kane they are asked to* 
look at actuality on a night off. 

The psychology of advertising and propaganda includes the \ 


principle of repetition. If the cinema assumes in the majority 
of its products certain attitudes to character, customs, manners 
and institutions, these attitudes which in an individual picture 
may be regarded as fictional and unreal may after a protracted 
period of cinema-going become absorbed as correct for decisions 
and behaviour in real life. Though I do not suggest that a 
girl when choosing her husband deliberately looks for some- 
thing like Spencer Tracy or Robert Taylor, I do suggest that 
the qualities of manhood accepted by her in the continuous 
contemplations of her ideal will colour her reactions to the 
men she has to meet in the real world. Certain patterns of 
behaviour in the attitude of men to women and women to men 
will seem acceptable to her, and she will be less adaptable to 
the exigencies of real male behaviour when she has to deal with 
t. Here the world of her own fantasy (coloured so real on the 
icreen) will affect her behaviour for good or evil. 

Similarly in the matter of her own behaviour and appearance. 
Few women can afford to dress like a film-star even if it werd 
possible to do so in the broad light of day. But the personal 
ippearance of many girls can be, and is, considerably modified 
3y what they come to regard as their style, and whether this 
ityle is a direct copy from a film appearance or an amalgamation 
}f film appearances, it is obvious that the cinema is the most 
consistent educational force in personal appearance and bearing 
offered to a woman today. 

The position for men is similar. Young men, normally self- 
conscious with women, look around for attitudes and phrases 
vith which to impress them. The cinema is a ready source of 
patterns of behaviour. With faltering taste, young men dress 
hemselves and go out to kill. The cinema, as their favourite 
jesort, guides them in the appropriate approaches to their 
vomen, and colours the tone of their Americanised phrasing. 

None of this may be for the bad, provided one factor is 
)bserved, namely that the fantasies built up from consistent 
ilm-going do not unfit an adolescent for normal living, especially 
>n the emotional plane. It is obvious that the cinema has done 
mmense good. It is a communal activity. Its entertainment, 
f broad, is largely wholesome (with certain exceptions). Its 
cheapness does not lead to the impoverishment of people who 
jo continuously. In a world as yet unfitted for creative leisure, 
t provides a steady fill-up for otherwise empty hours. It 

138 FILM 

must in the long run prevent much anti-social behaviour in 
drunkenness and individualised vice. 

Where some of the harm lies is in the propaganda element, 
which is insidious rather than obvious in the content of motion 
pictures financed by some of the hardest big-business combines 
in the world. It is obvious that the ' no controversy ' ban 
by the British censors is matched by a 'no controversy ' ban 
from the promoters themselves. In the broader issues of right 
and wrong, the cinema is on the side of the angels — gangsters 
are evil, detectives are good. But certain themes are implicit 
in most pictures (American and British alike, but more vividly 
,in American) and might be listed as follows: 

(a) Wealth in the abstract is a good thing. 

(b) Luxury, especially associated with women, is normal. 

(c) The full-time pursuit of women by unoccupied business 

men and rich young rulers is normal. 
{d) The desks of high-power executives are always clear. 
(e) Fathers spoil their daughters with money-gifts. 
(/) Men are the source of money for women. 
(g) The desirability of the night-club-with-cabaret life. 
(h) A sock in the jaw is an honest man's answer. 
(/) Men should appraise women by externals, with close-ups 

of essentials. 
0') Women should be judged satisfactory on the basis of 

(k) Sex is probably the most important sensation in life. 
(/) Women can be come-hither till you don't know where. 
(m) Women may appraise men by externals and invite intimate 

attention at speed. 
in) Things of the spirit are either funny, eccentric, charlatan, 

or ever so wonderful. (Art is usually debunked as 

artiness, religion as mania, mysticism as a yearn in 

soft focus.) 
(0) Reformers are either harmless saints or agitators. (No 

controversy, please — Promoter and Censor.) 
(p) Brainless patriotism is preferable to national self-criticism. 
(q) To be foreign is to be under suspicion. To be Eastern 

is to be horrific, 
(r) Life is a lark if you have the facilities, poverty is an act 

of star-slumming, boy gets girl is the end of life's 


difficulties, divorce is as easy as knife, and riches are 
the reward of virtue. 

A cynic will say that this is a picture of actuality anyhow, 
and since the screen is realistic, it is merely reproducing real 
life. But the answer lies in attitudes and emphases, in sug- 
gestions and comparisons, in the absence from the screen of a 
due sense of proportion in all these things. I do not think a 
working girl should take her standards from a socialite, since 
she cannot carry them out in practice — all she will be able to 
do is to copy the socialite's sexual attitudes without the money 
to pay for them. 

The absence of any social sense from so many films is com- 
pensated for by personal, that is individual, glamour and charm. 
To be charming is enough, together, perhaps, with the exposure 
of some flagrant vice in the villain of the story. The emphasis 
on the personal satisfactions (for screen love is normally selfish 
love since the prizes are so desirable) induces a wrong political 
emphasis in a period when the world will survive only by 
collaboration between communities and nations. 

To sum up, cinema at its worst reflects an impoverished 
hedonism, an appalling absence of cultural background or 
international understanding, and a dangerous escapism from 
the social problems which only an alert public opinion can lead 
to a satisfactory stage of solution. These problems are often 
misrepresented, sentimentalised, or treated, as in the gangster 
films, as a medium for a little vicarious sadism on our own 
behalf in passing. Gangsterism is only Fascism writ small, and 
little can be ctone to clear the larger evil while the smaller 
remains a favourite form of public excitement in the arm- 
chairs of the cinemas. The vicious circle of the box-office 
prevents the healthy development of documentary fiction, which 
the public would take in its stride if well directed ; and where 
the box-office would open its chromium doors to fictionalised 
discussion, the censors step in with grandmotherly fervour to 
stop the children thinking for themselves. 

Yet despite all this, the miracle happens, and certain problems 
of social importance have been worthily treated in successful 
box-office films. 

140 FILM 


In " The Film Answers Back," E. W. and M. M. Robson try 
to show, particularly from the American angle, how social 
problems have been honestly presented on the screen. They 
overstate their case, forgetting the six hundred features which are 
the annual drug for the public mind, and among which the few 
serious films on contemporary problems look like scarecrows on 
a blasted heath. For what have been the great films from 
America and Britain in the last ten years, with one or two 
from Germany and France ? (We must discount Russian and 
British documentary from this argument.) Can many titles be 
added to these, working from 1942 backwards to about 1930?: 
Thunder Rock. (Issued too late to be as effective sociologically 

as it was when first produced as a play.) 
How Green was my Valley. (An American version of the story 

Britain should have filmed.) 
The Great Dictator. (Chaplin debunks fascism.) 
Major Barbara. (Bernard Shaw.) 
Freedom Radio. (Democracy versus fascism strongly linked 

with personal issues.) 
49th Parallel. (Fascism at large !) 

Citizen Kane. (Public issues possibly outweigh the personal.) 
The Grapes of Wrath. (From Steinbeck's great social novel.) 
Pastor Hall. (Democracy versus fascism strongly linked with 

personal issues.) 
The Mortal Storm. (Democracy versus fascism strongly linked 

with personal issues.) 
Young Mr. Lincoln. (Strongly linked with personal issues.) 
The Women. (Did this debunk the socialites, or make them 

merely amusing ?) 
South Riding. (Had issues of local government at stake.) 
The Good Earth. (Chinese life and custom.) 
Dead End. (An American social evil: poverty and juvenile 

Things to Come. (H. G. Wells.) 
Modern Times. (Chaplin's angle on big business, etc., with 

much facetiousness.) 
La Grande Illusion (Renoir's war film). 
Fury. (An American social evil — fynching.) v 
Mr. Deeds goes to Town. (Integrity versus corruption strongly 

linked with personal issues.) 


Green Pastures. (Projection of Negro religious idealism.) 
Winterset. (For its political issues at the commencement.) 
Injustice. (American exposure of social evil.) 
Black Fury. (American mining film. Compare Kameradschaft ^ 
Story of Louis Pasteur. (Comparatively fair treatment of 

important social issue.) 
Man of Aran. (Flaherty.) 

La Maternelle. (French study of child psychology.) 
Zero de Conduite. (Vigo's film on boarding-school life.) 
Once in a Lifetime. (Exposure of Hollywood by Hollywood.) 
Madchen in Uniform. (Sagan's study of a Prussian girl ? s 

A Nous la Liberte. (Clair's more or less sociological comedy.) 
Kameradschaft. (Pabst's study of a Franco-German coal- 
West Front, 1918. (Pabst's war film.) 
All Quiet on the Western Front. (America's war film.) 

No alert audience seeing these and some other lesser films 
could escape the social implications in them, mixed though 
they normally were with immediate personal problems. These 
films were the most widely felt form of propaganda there has 
been here and in America along with the novels and plays from 
which so many of them stemmed off. It was widely felt because 
it was presented to audiences of millions largely in terms of 
personal issues which they had been trained to watch with 
syrqpathetic attention. Most of them were successful box- 
office. The answer is clear; make more of them. What 
therefore stands in the way ? Censorship and financial backing 
are the two chief obstacles. 


The famous signature of T. P. O'Connor on a smudgy censor's 
certificate always preluded the feature film from the year 1912. 
His passing did not, however, alleviate the censorship situation, 
\^hich has, during the course of the years, developed into an 
anomalous position,. Its history is complicated, and bound up 
with the Fire Regulations in the eyes of the Local Authority 
through which the cinemas obtain their licences like public 
houses. The stages in the history are these : 

1. In 1912 The British Board of Film Censors was set up by 

142 ' FILM 

the trade itself, and was financed by it, in order that the trade 
should gain respectability in the eyes of the community. Mr. 
T. P. O'Connor proved an enterprising President, and vastly 
developed the powers of the Board in the teeth of legal opposi- 

2. In 1921 the Middlesex County Council inserted a clause 
in its cinema licences that no films could be shown without the 
Board's certificate. This is universally accepted by Local 
Authorities, who can, however, over-rule the Board's category 
certificate, and who also retain the power, which they very 
rarely use, to license the showing of a film without a certificate. 
Most Local Authorities never question the Board's certificate. 
For the sake of their licences, neither do the exhibitors. 

3. By the Cinematograph Act of 1909 no cinema without a 
licence issued, by the Local Authority can exhibit inflammable 
films to a public or private audience. Thus a censorship 
regulation is linked with a fire regulation. 

4. In 1922 the Home Office approved the following conditions, 
namely that the Local Authority could alter the Board's A 
certificate to a local U certificate, could grant permission for 
the exhibition of films uncertificated by the Board, and could 
restrict the entrance of children under sixteen from A films. 
The Home Office recommended all Local Authorities to carry 
out these so-called model conditions. 

5. In 1924 the High Courts, questioned on the legality of the 
conditions, decided they could be enforced. 

The position rests that most Local Authorities accept the 
Board's censorship rulings implicitly, and impose them 
on the exhibitors within their area of jurisdiction through the 
granting of cinema-opening licences based on a fire-clause. 
Public-spirited Local Authorities can, at the request of an alert 
public or exhibitor (such as a Film Society), grant permission 
for the showing of an Uncertificated feature. 

But the law of the box-office means in effect that no film will 
be made in Britain or America which will not pass the Censor- 
ship regulations and so automatically be barred from all but a 
tiny minority of cinemas. 

Films made on the Continent under easier censorship con- 
ditions can be shown in this country only after being mutilated 
to suit the Board's regulations, or, if unsubmitted, by the toler- 
ance and progressive outlook of the Local Authority. The 


Local Authority usually acts through its Watch Committee if 
ever requested to permit the exhibition of such a film. The 
answer usually goes without saying. 

The Censorship staff's preoccupations when watching its 
six hundred films a year can be briefly summarised under the 
following general prohibitions : 

1. Religious. — The materialised figure of Christ (you remember 
the trouble over Green Pastures). The irreverent treatment of 
religious practices and rites. The irreverent treatment of the 
Bible and biblical allusion (Uldee banned). 

2. Political. — Anything calculated to wound foreign sus- 
ceptibility (Inside Nazi Germany banned). Anything calculated 
to foment social unrest and discontent. (The universal release 
of many Russian films has come only since Russia's entry into 
the war.) 

3. Social. — Nudity (except negroid), swearing (beyond certain 
limits: the Hays Office is more particular than the Board: 
controversy over language in In Which we Serve), indecent orgy, 
contempt of State and King's, uniform, lascivious behaviour 
(difficulties here !), lascivious dress, gross drunkenness, child- 
birth and its pains, venereal disease, sexual relations between 
white and coloured people (half-castes passed), incitements to 
crime, exhibitions of drug habits, prolonged scenes of brutality, 
hangings and executions, cruelty to children and animate, 
antagonistic scenes between Capital and Labour, seduction 
without restraint, marriage nights without restraint, illegal opera- 
tions, prostitution, incest, realistic epilepsy. 

There can be little doubt that the Board takes a wide view 
of the contexts for what might be classed as the sexual headings 
•above. Normally the humorous treatment of sex is more 
easily allowed than the serious, the romantic ' glamorous ' 
sex than the purely sensuous. Nevertheless, it is amazing what 
is allowed, arid how near the intention of the regulations some 
scenes can be allowed to go. Also, with special fuss, and with 
alert Local Authorities putting in a ban of their own, clinical 
films on childbirth and venereal disease have been shown in 
this country. 

Where the Censor's ban is most stringent is on the political 
issues. Film Societies have on the whole been allowed to 
show themselves Russian films during the thirties when these 
were normally without certificate. Certain Local Authorities, 

144 . FILM 

notably the broadminded L.C.C., have permitted their public 
exhibition. But these films were made on foreign money, and 
prints only sent to this country. The Censor's attitude to 
jnatters of political controversy prohibits the making of films 
on sociological themes, both here and in America, until they 
have reached that stage of solution when their portrayal can no 
longer appear to ' foment ' public opinion. 

Only for films under feature length (that is 3,000 feet, a bare 
half-hour) need the Censor's certificate not be displayed. This 
confines controversy to the documentary, newsreel, and interest 
short. And even these are often submitted for the Censor's 
approval before Exhibitors dare to show them. For example, 
The March of Time was normally submitted, and normally, but 
not always, got its certificate. If the Censor banned it, it was 
not shown, even though its length precluded it from the category 
of films requiring a certificate. 

Most countries have their censorship, but it largely takes 
a political rather than a moral standpoint, though morality is 
not unregarded in Russia and Germany. The latter's morality 
is that of the Leader's policy — Der Ammenkonig advocated mass 
illegitimate childbirth for the good of the State ! In France 
a more frank approach to sex was permitted, but the sight of a 
political issue raised a storm at once. French films were, 
tkerefore, either passionate or lighthearted. Rene Clair's A 
Nous la Liber te caused trouble despite its final dance between 
Capital and Labour. 

The story of American censorship is different from that of 
Great Britain. I am indebted to Margaret Thorp's " America 
at the Movies " for the facts. State censorship began in 1911. 
The industry set up its own self-sifter in 1922: this was the 
Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. Will H. 
Hays, campaign-manager to President Harding, Postmaster- 
General to Harding's Cabinet, was appointed president with a 
salary of a hundred thousand dollars a year. 

The Hays Office is a bureau of reference for the industry: 
it will advise on pictures before they are made. In 1930 one of 
Hays' departments produced a " Code to govern the making of 
Talking, Synchronised &nd Silent Motion Pictures," a survey 
of social and sexual immoralities which must not appear on 
the screen. Since this sort of thing is the same the whole world 
over, there is not much to choose between the American and 



British codes. All scripts are submitted to the Hays Office 
before they are shot, and all finished films must get a Code 
seaJ before general release. The seal makes no reference to 
release for children as distinct from adults. 

The Hays Office also acts as liaison between trade and public. 
It is a goodwill agency. It seeks out what is honourable in the 
American public's intentions towards the cinema, and encour- 
ages what is best and cleanest. America is a land of clubs and 
societies. Among these are some six thousand Better Film 
Councils, the solid expression of we-want-good-films from the 
more on-coming of America's eighty-five-million-a-week movie- 
goers. These Councils organise support of what they are led 
to believe are the better films produced in America. 

Finally there is the National Legion of Decency, organised 
by the Catholic Church which is twenty million strong in the 
States. The Legion indexes all films in lists issued weekly. It 
classes films as A (Section 1, unobjectionable for all;- Section II, 
unobjectionable for adults), B (objectionable in parts), and C 
(condemned). Films likely to get a C grade on moral or 
political grounds are not made in America. Things to Come 
received a B; La Kerrnesse Heroique a C. Walter Wanger's 
Blockade, because it appeared to attack Franco's side in the 
Spanish war, was not classified at all. 

Addressing the Trade in 1936, T. P. O'Connor's successor, 
Lord Tyrrell, expressed his pleasure that so far he had not 
licensed any film dealing with "current, burning political 
questions," and that he was prepared to put " some check " on 
those subjects which showed a sign of the " thin end of the 
wedge." " Cinema needs continued repression of controversy 
in order to stave off disaster," he said. Russian films, films 
like Uldee, and issues of The March of Time like " Inside Nazi 
Germany " received no certificate. The only solution here was 
for the showing to be given by the private group and the minority 
cinema, the work of which demands a section of its own. 

The common-sense solution to the censorship problem is 
difficult to jeach. To take the two extreme cases of divergent 
viewpoint, it is intolerable that intelligent people should be 
deprived of the right to see films on the most important socio- 
logical issues of the time, or films which deal with matters of 
sex or religion with critical integrity. On the other hand, 
films which deal with such subjects in a manner which can be 

146 FILM 

tolerated for the intelligent and worldly-wise may well be 
harmful if exhibited to the uncritically receptive adolescent or 1 f 
over-sensitive child. It is intolerable that all films for public' 3 
exhibition should be measured by the standards of the culturally! 
under-privileged, for by such standards, if applied to great 
literature, a large measure of the world's masterpieces would 
have to be bowdlerised or abandoned. The burning of the 
books would cover much Greek and Latin literature, the contes 
of the Middle Ages, some stories of Chaucer and plays of 
Shakespeare, the dialogue of Congreve and Wycherley, thel. 
coarse gaiety of the novels of the eighteenth century, the essential ^ 
strength of Balzac, Flaubert, Zola, Proust, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy,fj 
Lawrence, Huxley, Joyce, dos Passos, Steinbeck and many 
modern novelists in America, France, Britain, Russia and else-f 
where. Much of this literature which troubles the unbalanced 
adolescent is strength to the culture of the adult mind, which f 
can bring a wider background of comparisons and moral 
standards to bear in the reading of such contributions to human 

So far in this battle, of divergences, the culturally under- 
privileged have received the protection of the Censor, which is 
a protection by half-measures only since so much of the material 
passed is harmful by standards other than those the Censor is 
called upon to watch. 

The culturally privileged have had to found private societies 
to see unlicensed films either behind the closed doors of admit- 
tance by membership only or by means of the projection of the 
films on 16 mm. substandard stock which escapes the fire- 
prevention order and so the opening-licence which in turn 
operates the Censor's ban. Substandard, however, is not the 
best medium for seeing the more complicated type of film 
technique, and the only adequate solution to date has been the 
private society in the larger communities making use of standard 
size sound machines either in the cinemas when not open to . 
the public or in ^private buildings equipped for sound film | 
projection. t 

Either you must have .a censorship, or not. There can be \ 
no half-way measure. Since it seems unlikely that there will 
be any time in the immediate future without censorship, the 
most sensible thing to do is to accept its existence as temporarily 
inevitable, and mitigate as far as possible its evil effects. The .3 


)ltition which most obviously presents itself is the issue of a 
irther certificate — the ' S ' certificate — which should be given 
> any film not granted any of the other certificates and which 
not a piece, of mere pornography as such. The viewing of 
films could be restricted to S audiences, namely Film Societies 
id other private bodies of the specialised type. The fact that 
film carried an S certificate would mean that the Local 
uthorities would not, as now, regard it as uncertificated and 
terefore 4 banned ' in the worst sense, but rather would class 
with Shakespeare as something remote and possibly of cultural 
ivantage to someone. It would be automatic that films 
taring an S certificate would be allowed without question to 
ilm'Societies, and with very little question to those few minority 
nemas specialising in film repertory and foreign films. 
The S certificate is the way out of the worst effects of censor- 
lip as now practised, and the way in for the film with minority 
opeal. No damage would be done to public morals, and the 
irase " banned by the Censor " would be confined to those 
-oducts of a poverty-stricken mentality which are usually 
assed as commercial pornography. 

. It is not the purpose of this book to outline,. the economic 
aild-up of the film industry. It varies frt>m country to country, 
i one would expect, but broadly speaking, the industry is 
ther semi-nationalised or fully nationalised as in the Fascist 
>untries and Russia, or run on individual capital as in this 
mntry, America and pre-Nazi France. In the countries where 
dividual capital is invested in film-making, the industry is 
in for private profit; money has to be put up to promote a 
m, and the returns are expected to be greater than the- out- 
xt to the greater glory of the investor. The industry is a sea 
here float the wrecks of good films left derelict because the 
•omoter did not agree with the director, and bad money talked 
uder than good sense. The general quality of films produced 

a reflection of the general quality of the financial minds 
jhind their promotion. On the other hand, the Independent 
irectors and Producers who so frequently try to break away 
om the routine picture into something new may find en- 
*htened capital to give them a break. But the whole business 

chance, and the larger the capital required, the worse the 

143 FILM 

chance. Films may cost anything from £15,000 to £150,000 to 
make, and the more spectacular cost up to £500,000. You 
cannot get this money by saying you have a fine picture tc 
make. You have to prove that the public will pay back the 
capital with the sort of interest which will make the initial risk 
worth while. 

In 1943 Paramount sold a circuit of eight prominent cinemas 
in London and the provinces to Mr. Arthur Rank of Odeon 
Theatres for a price running into millions. This is the exhibitors' 
side. F. D. Klingender and Stuart Legg investigated the 
structure of the British film industry and published their findings 
in 1937. The total assets of Associated British Picture Cor- 
poration in 1936 (as exhibitors primarily, but also as producers) 
was over ten and a half million pounds. 

You require to have a hell of a sharp end to your wedge 
to get that good idea for a picture into money like this. 


The general picture of the industry in France was not happieii 
than in Britain. It has had to struggle against the severitie^ 
of censorship and the foreign import (especially American and 
German): its glory was the independent aestheticism of the! 
avant-garde movement in silent days and the achievement of a 
few directors and stars in sound. It has endured quotas and 
dubbing; it has produced innumerable theatrical films in a 
stage-like tradition. Fortunately the collapse of some of thd 
major commercial studios in 1935 gave the Independent pro-] 
ducer-directors a chance to make films which, despite the fewness 
of their number, were to create the famous French school ofj 
poetic-realistic films, and make the reputation of French cinema} 
in Britain and America. . jj 

The success of its Independents is remarkable howeverlf 
France is notably a place where the artist can find appreciation] 
though the usual programme film is well able to fill the larger 
cinemas with satisfied patrons. The work of the Independents 
is well described by Miss Elsie Cohen in response to a quenj 
put to her by Mr. Charles Davy. (" Footnotes to the Film,*] 
p. 308.) 

** First, production costs in France are much lower, and 
the French producer can expect a much better return froni 
his home market. He can make a high-quality feature filrrj 


for £20,000-£25,000 and may reap a profit of £10,000 from 
the French-speaking market alone, with extra profits often 
from Great Britain and a little extra sometimes from 
America. The main reason is that he has to meet com- 
paratively little competition from American films in his 
own country. The more popular American pictures are 
shown in Paris and in the large cities, but French audiences 
like their own films and support them without any of that 
condescension which audiences here have come — not with- 
out cause — to feel for British pictures. Further, . French 
films are at present made almost entirely by independent 
production units, brought into being and financed perhaps 
for a single job of work. Most of the leading stars are 
free-lances; they are paid fees, not contract salaries. 
Hence the producer has few continuous (jverheacis; he 
hires studio space, hires his players, and when a film is 
finished his commitments are mostly finished too. Nor is 
he compelled to keep on turning out films to carry out a 
schedule promised to renters and exhibitors in advance. 
The booking of films to cinemas is much less elaborately 
organised; a good new picture will probably get shown 
on the boulevards soon after it is r^ady and will run there 
as long as it continues to draw. And this freedom from 
time pressure gives producers a chance to plan their pictures 
carefully in advance; they are able to work as craftsmen, 
not as mechanics on an assembly line." 


It is difficult to obtain a consecutive account of the organisa- 
on of the Nazi cinema machine. 1 The temporary triumphant 
access of Nazi propaganda in Europe has not been achieved 
without skill and patience, and much of this technical astuteness 
/as applied to the film, which Goebbels recognised from the 
rst to be of the greatest importance in creating the correct 
attern of opinion and emotion required of the German people. 

Before the Nazis came to power, U.F.A. (Universum Film, 
l.G.) had developed into the major production, distribution 

1 The chief sources for this section are articles in the following pub- 
cations : " Cinema Quarterly," Vol. Ill, No. 4 ; " Sight and Sound/* 
Jos. 29 and 38 ; " World Film News," Sept. 1936 ; * Documentary 
lews Letter," April 1940. 

150 FILM 

and exhibiting organisation in the film industry. The Nazi? 
Hugenberg, owner of the large nationalistic Scherl newspaper 
trust, took over U.F.A., which was originally formed by fcrupp| 
and the big banks after the 1918 war. Hugenberg deliberately* 
developed the nationalism of his films in preparation for the] 
coming power of the Nazis. Between 1928 and 1933 U.F.AJ 
took over 150 German cinemas, increasing its houses from] 
200 to 350. 

U.F.A. policy included the development of the documentary] 
and educational film. Were it not for the Nazi infusion into! 
the policy and tone of the German documentary, Britain would! 
not stand unrivalled in this department of world cinema. InJ 
1937 it was estimated that whilst the 32,000 British schools], 
had onty 800 projectors in use, Germany's 55,000 schools had] 
17,000 machines. U.F.A. organised not only this form ofj 
production but also commercial documentary on a wide scale,] 
producing along with the independent documentary directors,] 
whom it fostered into subjection, some 1 30 documentaries a year! 
for public cinema use, just before the present war. In 1938] 
400 films were required for school and college use. These] 
were controlled by the State Educational Film Institute. 

When the Nazis took control of the film industry, they placed] 
it under the Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda founded! 
in March 1933. Goebbels is, therefore, in full charge of alljT 
German film production which centres in the large companies II 
like U.F.A., A.S.A. and Tobis. The supervision of film pro- If 
duction is covered by the Reichsfilmkammer (the Film I$oard),lr 
by a system of pre-censoring by the Reichsfilmdramaturg and If 
of post-censoring by a Board of Censors, and financial subsidy!!! 
is granted, where necessary, by the Filmkreditbank. 

Membership of the Reichsfilmkammer is obligatory on all Ml 
personnel employed in any branch of film work: expulsion is II 
ordered if misbehaviour against the multiplex Nazi code is If 
alleged. The work of the Reichsfilmdramaturg is to intervene!? 
at all stages of production from original proposals to the editing If 
bench, if it is necessary for the good of the Nazi regime or policy. « 

Jews can take no part in any film production. < It is thdu 
particular function of the Kontingentstelle to vet all personnel ff 
involved in each film production. An elaborate system of;! 
censorship is carried out by the Board of Censors (Filmpruf-J 
stelle). This Board of Censors also carries out examination of/J 



11 film imports : Ruggles of Red Gap, for instance, was banned 
n account of the Gettysburg speech. 

The exhibition of documentary films of special merit from 
le Nazi artistic and educational viewpoint leads to a reduction 
1 the entertainment tax required of the exhibitor. Since 
ngle-feature programmes are the rule', the normal programme 
the long Nazi newsreel, a documentary, and interest or 
artoon or comedy short, and the feature. A visit to a typical 
Jerman cinema is described by Winifred Holmes in " Sight and 
ound," Spring 1939. It does not sound particularly cheerful, 
ut the documentary on a natural history subject is described 


An important aspect of the German film industry is the film 
esigned for export. The Nazi travel films with a strong 
'elcome-to-Germany appeal were well known. They described 
le fairer aspects of Germany and the beauty of its scenery, its 
ledieval towns, and its wonderful, athletic youth. Ostensibly 
ontrolled by the German State Railways, this form of propa- 
anda by means of the free distribution of well-made travel 
horts abroad was actually controlled by the Ministry of Infor- 
mation and Propaganda. With agents all over the world the 
Lailway Bureau distributed the most suitable films for the 
ountry to which they were sent and had them commentated in 
ae right language and more particularly in the right manner. 

A still more sinister aspect of German propaganda export 
as been the use of terror films designed in the first place to 
ive the German public joy through strength, and in the second 
lace, when exported to small neutral neighbours, to spread 
nrest through terror. The first of these films was Baptism of 
7 ire> released after the invasion of Poland and the siege of 
Varsaw. It is easy to watch with an R.A.F. to back you, but 
s effect in the then neutral countries east of Germany must 
ave been overwhelming. The film chooses the Luftwaffe for 
iero, and with its fine triumphant music and bold commentary 
elivered with resonance, and where required (reference Mr. 
Chamberlain)' with rasping sarcasm, with its maps showing the 
/asting away of the Polish forces round Warsaw, and with its 
aeans of triumph for the great airmen who bomb an almost 
elpless city out of its traditions and its civilisation, it must 
ave seemed inevitable that collaboration with the Axis was the 
nly expedient policy to adopt. With wonderful lugubrious 

152 FILM 

music we see the wrecked houses and cratered streets (only! 
Spain, neglected by British newsreels, 1 had known the like by 
1939), the dismal food queues, and the straggling line of school 
children passing the dead body which sprawls in tlfe gutter ofj 
the city street opened to the sky by the blasting of the Luftwaffe. 
Whilst the commentator mocks the helpless British who swore 
to aid Poland, the camera tours the roofless shells of Warsaw's 
streets and squares shot from the vantage of a German plane. 
Shot after shot, interminably trailing across the lens of the 
camera, emphasised the foolishness of resistance to German 
youth who sing the beautiful songs of Deutschland while 
loading their planes with explosives. To end it all, GoeringlU 
delivers a speech in close-up on the might and powers of the 

With, the same crushing crescendo Germany recorded her j 
invasion of France in Victory in the West. 

The British reply to Baptism of Fire was Target for Tonightl 
and the newsreel records of the Battle of Britain. Her reply 
to Victory in the West was WavelVs 30,000 and Desert Victory, j 
But the final reply will be the reinstatement of the great German] 
directors, technicians and artists now exiled, so that they] 
may assist in the redevelopment of a productive German] 
cinema after the war. 

However, Dr. Goebbels at the International Film Congress for] 
1935 announced the principles of the perman film policy (re- 
ported in " Cinema Quarterly," Vol. Jll, p. 213). Summarised,] 
they include the entertainment and enlightenment of the German j 
people whilst not remaining " aloof from the hard realities of 
the day," the subsidising of the industry out of State funds for \ 
this purpose, and the production of a cinema which will become j 
" the strongest piofieer and the most modern spokesman of our 
age." Everything must be interpreted in a manner " adapted 
to the spirit of the period." Handled in this way it will " form j 
a bond between the nations " and " promote understanding ] 
among them." 

Thus does Poland understand its Baptism of Fire. Thus is- 
France bound by the* Victory in the West. 

x Pathe's version of the bombing of Madrid was censored out of, 


\ The Russian cinema is organ^ed on a plan unlike that of 
my other film-producing country. 1 The industry as a whole 
is planned for State education first and entertainment second. 
Entertainment is by no means neglected, but the primary con- 
option behind the d whole plan is adult education in the broad 
principles of the Revolution, its history, its processes, its per- 
sonalities and its planning. The whole of the film production 
s in the hands of the State throughout the Union of Soviet 
Republics. The cinema is, therefore, primarily a cultural and 
educational recreation supported by the State. .The accounts 
pven in 1934 by Helen Schoeni (" Cinema Quarterly "), in 1937 
:>y Richard Ford (" Sight and Sound "), in 1940 by Ivor Montagu 
" Documentary News Letter ") and in 1941 by Eisenstein 
" Culture and Leisure " volume of the " U.S.S.R. Speaks for 
tself " series) give a complete picture of the progress of this 
jnique cultural experiment. 

Before, Russian films are criticised for their matter and 
,echnique by the sophisticated audiences of British and American 
:inemas, the facts given by Richard Ford and Ivor Montagu 
;hould be understood. 

By 1937 there were 3,000 sound cinemas and 36,000 silent 
projectors to cover a population of 160 millions. In Moscow, 
vith a population of over 3^ million, there were only between 
>0 and 60 public sound cinemas, with an average weekly attend- 
ince of 350,000. The seating capacity of these cinemas was 
;mall, averaging 700. The seats were wooden tip-ups, the 
loors bare, the lighting sparse, projection and sound poor, 
rhe programmes were organised on a single feature basis, without 
.upporting films, except occasional newsreels. A cinema would 
jive eight to twelve showings a day. Ford describes an audience 
n a typical cinema in January 1937. It is important for us, 
vith a different conception and tradition of cinema-going, to 
mderstand the distinctions between a Russian and a British 

x The chief sources for this section are articles in the following 
>ublications : " Sight and Sound," No. 21 (1937), " Cinema Quar- 
erly" (Summer 1934), "Documentary News Letter" (I, 9, Sept. 
940), " U.S.S.R. Speaks for Itself," Vol. IV, Culture and Leisure, 
941 (article by Eisenstein). The Conference of 1934 between the 
>lder and ypunger directors is covered by Marie Setori in " Cinema 
Quarterly," Nos. 11 and 12 (1935) and by the publication "Soviet 
:inema " (1935). 

154 FILM 

audience. We are now seeing and shall see an increasing 
number of Russian films. It is important to understand the 
audience for which they are primarily made. 

" Imagine a worker going to the cinema. He has heard \ 
that the new film, showing in all the bjg cinemas, is worth] 
seeirig, and he decides he can afford five roubles for himself! 
and his wife. He does not know the names of any film] 
stars (they scarcely exist in U.S.S.R.), but a friend says! 
there is plenty of excitement in this film. He does not! 
like sophistication, but wants a strong story full of action,! 
with the triumph of right over wrong, and the heroine, iff 
possible, helping to shoot the wrongdoers. 

" At the box-office he stands in a queue. He sees the I 
time of the performance — twenty-fivfe minutes to wait — J 
buys the tickets (numbered for a specific row and seat) andi 
walks into the foyer, well-lit arid furnished with seats and! 
benches. At the far end a jazz band is playing on a plat-j 
form, with a woman singer in a long silk dress. He stares J 
at them, nods his head to the rhythm, and goes to the food] 
counter to buy a cake for his wife. The previous show! 
ends. Still wearing his cap, he rushes into the cinemaj 
elbowing his way to find his seat number, in a hurry ini 
case the lights go down. Then the doors are shut, thei 
lights are out, and he fixes his eyes on the white screen.! 
There is no smoking or eating in the cinema. At the endj 
of the film the lights go up, he is told to hurry along, and! 
he goes out by a different door from the entrance. Pre-J 
vented from seeing the jazz band again, he goes into thej 
street to queue in the cold for his tramcar home. 

" The average Moscow audience is similar to a child 
audience in England: It wants excitement and action 
The faster the pursuit, the more the shouts of encourag 
ment. Dirty deeds and wanton cruelty evoke groans 
horror. Stirring acts of national patriotism with th 
appearance of the Red Flag, and a singing marching songj 
t get plenty of cheers. Long-drawn love scenes give rise to] 
imitated kisses amongst the audience. Only the heroics 
aspect of sex is tolerated. 

" Going to the cinema is regarded more as a cultural 
experience than an evening's entertainment. The audienqi 


stares at the screen as if attending an important lecture. 
Its attention seldom wanders. There is, in fact, far less 
conversation during films than during plays in theatres. 
There is very little laughter except at clowning; dialogue 
seldom provokes laughter; but any joke at the expense 
of priests is always well received." (" Sight and Sound," 
No. 21, p. 11.) 

None the less, the industry is placed on a sound footing for 
evelopment, and has its place in the new Five- Year Plan, 
^gain, because of its distinction from British and American 
ommercialism, Ford's summary of the structure of the industry 

of extreme importance. 

" The following brief summary of the structure of the 
industry may help to emphasise the importance placed 
upon this great propaganda industry. 

" (a) The Film Industry is controlled by the Committee 
on Arts, one of the highest State authorities. 

" (b) Studios : There are- film production studios in each 
of the separate Republics. The Moscow Studio — the 
largest and most active — contains four main groups for the 
production of full-length features, for children's films, for 
newsreels, and for cartoons respectively. In Moscow, 
there are also two units, called factories, for producing 
technical and educational films. In 1936 the Moscow 
Studios released 15 full-length sound films, compared with 
4 in 1935 and 4 in 1934. About 2,000 people are employed 
in production in Moscow. 

" (c) Apparatus : Five factories. 

" (d) Institutes : In Moscow and Leningrad there are 
Academic Institutes for the study of scientific and technical 
problems connected with the industry. 

" (e) Schools : In Moscow there is one technical school 
for training specialists for the industry. 

" (/) Chemical Trusts : Six chemical factories for making 
and distributing film stock. 

" (g) Copy Factories : Eight factories for making copies 
of completed films. 

" (h) Building Trust: This organisation is responsible for 
building and planning new cinemas. Its activities are 

156 FILM 

limited by the vast amount of new buildings urgently needed 
for housing, factories, and offices. In Moscow, for example, 
the Trust has plans for a large new cinema in the main 
square, to seat 3,000 to 4,000 people; for there is at present 
only one large cinema in the centre of Moscow. But the 
difficulties of construction, and the slowness due to adverse 
winter weather, are shown in the fact that completion isj 
not scheduled until 1940. 

" (/) * Russian Hollywood ' : A film production town is 
being planned in the Crimea. It is intended to concentrate 
there all the most expensive imported apparatus and to 
"make the town a focal point for the widely scattered national 
studios. The equipment and personnel for * dubbing ' 
foreign films will also be concentrated there." ("Sight 
and Sound," No. 21, p. 9.) 

Writing in 1940, Ivor Montagu gives more favourable figures ! 
for the equipment position. 

" The Third Five- Year Plan involves the disappearance 
of all silent screens and the increase of sound projection 
units more than six times, from 9,000 in 1937 to 60,000 
in 1940 (exclusive of those in schools and other places not 
open to the general public). The network in the country- 
side will increase 1,108 per cent.: 50,000 standard andj 
40,000 substandard sound projectors, with 35,000 electrical 1 
generating apparatus for portable work, will be produced I 
during the Third Five- Year Plan, or to express it another! 
way, accommodation for spectators (calculated on a basis I 
of annual occupation of seats) — which rose as follows : ] 
1928, 310 million; 1936, 710 million; 1939, 950 million— | 
will increase to 2,700 million (45 per cent, instead of as] 
now 30 per cent, in the countryside) by 1942." (" Docu 
mentary News Letter," I, 9, p. 11.) 

This is planning on a great scale, interrupted now by the] 
war with its terrible cultural as well as geographical losse 
which will take years to replace after the war. 

Eisenstein himself describes the expansion of film enthusiasm 
to the borders of the outermost Republics. 

" The motion picture has become a prime cultura 
necessity to the Soviet citizen. The best films are distribut 


in thousands of negatives and shown everywhere, not only 
in the big modern theatres in the cities and the cinemas in 
the countryside, but in clubs, the apartments of our Stakhan- 
ovites and other people of note. They are shown * to 
collective farmers far out in the fields, to army and navy 
men and passengers on ships at sea/ 

** Then there are the itinerant cinemas employing a great 
army of operators equipped with portable projectors. They 
show fUms in the most remote corners of the country, the 
Siberian forests, the Alpine meadows of the Caucasus, the 
villages of Turkmenia and Tajikistan and the auls (native 
villages) of Kazakhstan. 

" To the far northern districts new pictures are delivered 
by air. The operators there take them on their itineraries 
by dog or reindeer team. In Yakutia, for instance, one 
operator recently made an interesting tour by dog-team. 
In a few months he covered about fifteen hundred miles 
and demonstrated his films in all the wintering camps on 
his route. But this, of course, is an exception. 

" Itinerant cinemas are generally installed in motor 
vehicles of the latest make. Among them are a fair number 
of the new outfits which show films out of doors in broad 
daylight. Considerable attention was paid ro the question 
of motion pictures as an important department of cultural 
development during the discussion of the new Five- Year 
Plan at the recent eighteenth Congress of the Communist 
Party. Provisions were macle for a sixfold increase in the num- 
ber of sound picture installations by the end of the Third 
Five-Year Plan." (" Culture and Leisure," pp. 38-9.) 

In the same way, the multi-lingual production of films was 
tpanding before the war. 

"The Five- Year Plans created a substantial technical 
base for the industry. The Soviet Union now produces its 
own film in large quantities. Several large plants have been 
built for the equipment of moving picture theatres and 

" Fine studios have been built in Moscow, Kiev, Minsk, 
Tbilissi, Leningrad and elsewhere. The Soviet newsreel 
service has branches in all the main cities. 

•* Under Soviet rule the non-Russian republics, too, have 

158 FILM 

developed film industries for the first time. The picture- 
goers of the Ukraine, Georgia, Byelorussia, Armenia] 
Azerbaijan, Turkmenia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan see 
films with the dialogue in their own languages. These! 
films are made by their own nationals." (" Culture ancf 
Leisure," p. 41.) 

. The principle of distribution is described by Richard Ford* 
as follows : 

" Before a completed film is shown to the public it is.] 
first shown to a select Commission whose work it is to seeS 
that it does not transgress in any way the written Consti«l 
tution of the U.S.S.R., and secondly, does not offend* 
against public morality. It is also shown privately at the! 
Kremlin to high officials of the Government, who can! 
demand alterations. Finally, it is shown privately at then 
Film Club where all film workers can see it, and criticiseH 
it from a technical point of view. 

"The film then passes to the Distribution Trusts, of J 
which there is one for each of the Republic Areas that form! 
the U.S.S.R., who control distribution and 
When a Trust has viewed the film, it orders from the Copy 
Factory the number of copies which it considers sufficient] 
for the cinemas under its control. In Moscow, for instance,!] 
the Trust usually gives a first order of 120 to 240 copies. 

" Every cinema, excepting five special cinemas in Moscow,! 
is directly controlled by its Distribution Trust. Each! 
cinema has a house manager appointed by the Trust. Thel 
Trust decides all details for each cinema; what film to] 
exhibit, when to take it off, times of showing, prices ofl 
admission, and so on. In Moscow the five largest cinemas J 
including the Children's Cinema, are responsible directly! 
to the Committee on Arts, which controls the film industry J 
They appear to have some similarity to first run or proM 
release cinemas; and from their box-office receipts somJ 
estimate can be formed of the popularity of films." (" Sigh™ 
and Sound," No. 21, p. 9.) 

The scale of payment of artists is given by Helen SchoeniH 
writing in 1934. The wage of an average unskilled workman ] 
was 250-300 roubles monthly. From this figure the salaries of 


lm-workers can be gauged. The salary range of directors is 
,200 roubles (Eisenstein, for instance) to' 400 roubles monthly, 
"he normal price for a script is on a fee basis ranging from 
,000 to 10,000 roubles. Directors also get 1 per cent, of box- 
ffice takings; /the author receives 1-J per cent. 

Stars like BatalofF are paid on a monthly basis covering the 
♦eriod of a single contract : they may gain as much as 30,000 
oubles for a single film (films take six months to a year to make), 
"he full-time supporting players get from 300 to 600 roubles 

month. Paid extras get 15 roubles a day. Large crowds are 

ldom paid at all : they contribute their services freely for the 
ood of the State art. 

Recruits to the industry are trained at the special institutes 
st up for the purpose. 

" Producers, operators, scenario writers and studio 
artists are trained at the State Institute of Cinematography 
in Moscow. - This Institute has specially equipped labora- 
tories, demonstration halls, studios and a collection of 
practically all the films that have appeared on the screen 
anywhere. The influx of students is so great that a new 
extension is being made, equipped with the most up-to- 
date motion picture technique. 

" The doors of the Institute of Cinematography are wide 
open to talented youth. As in all colleges in the Soviet 
Union the Institute's training is free of charge and the 
students receive a regular allowance from the State. After 
graduating from this Institute they go to the studios where, 
after a trial period, they are given work to do on their own 

44 Motion picture technicians are trained at another 
institute in Leningrad. A third institute, in Moscow, 
conducts research on the problems of stereoscopic films 
and the improvement of cameras, projectors and film." 
(" Culture and Leisure," pp. 42-30 

The result of this completely diiferent perspective cannot 
asily be imagined by an audience trained in the British and 
mierican commercial cinema. The perspective is more nearly 
lat of documentary turned feature, with the entertainment 
Im as such developed as a side-line and welcomed in its due 
lace. The conception of the film is idealised into a major 

160 FILM 

cultural medium. " Cinema is the most important of all arts 
for us," said Lenin. " The cinema in the hands of the Soviet I 
power represents a great force," says Stalin. And the directors ]\ 
echo this promise: " the great international art of cinemato- 
graphy," wrote Pudovkin, and Eisenstein states ten years later: 
" We say that the screen is of all arts the most popular in the 
Soviet Union." 


The documentary film could be described as the higher 
journalism of the screen. Its purpose is broadly to help the 
world understand the world. It is creative in so far as it 
analyses and interprets society from the viewpoint of an in- jj 
dividual or school of thought. It is, therefore, broadly educa- 
tional. It is also popular, but its aim is more closely allied to I 
propaganda than to simple instruction. 

The instructional or teaching film, whether designed for child j 
or adult, is an entirely different class of cinema. It is shown I 
where groups of people assemble, willingly or unwillingly, to be 
told how to do something, how something works, or what some- I 
thing is like. The film becomes a moving visual textbook. 

All over the civilised world hundreds of thousands of teachers 1 
are left alone with groups of children, adolescents or adults, and |j 
are paid to instruct them. In hundreds of centres of research 1 
into the technique of instruction, thousands of more specialised I 
teachers are studying the best methods of study. In a few key J 
places the limited number of teachers of genius do what they 1 
can to lead the general tenor of the theory of education along 1 
progressive lines. Only in recent times could the broader mass I 
of the people gain any direct access to the enlightened few. I 
They had to depend on books and reports, and on the specialised 1 
interpretation of educational theory by the research specialists. 1 

Now we have radio and film. A vivid direct access to | 
important teachers is provided, cheaply and easily by radio, 
more elaborately by the film. Schoolchildren during the day- 
time can hear the voices of the country's specialists : they can 
discuss with their own teachers the results of these talks, 
this can be done for the price of a wireless set. 

The film presents certain technical difficulties which in 
country have not yet been adequately overcome. It is no 
making instructional films if there is no consistent coverage 


ichools by projectors. It is no use buying projectors if there 
s no consistent policy of instructional film production. Since 
he Board of Education has given no lead in the matter of 
pquipping all senior and secondary schools with sound pro- 
jectors, and has merely given good advice to Local Authorities, 
jve have the absurd position that large cities buy two or three 
[,ound projectors for general use by all their schools (probably 
150 to 200 buildings), and train groups of teachers over the week- 
end as hesitant and unskilful projectionists. 

There is no excuse for inaction. The British Film Institute, 
)i State-financed organisation for research into and preservation 
)f films, has provided most of the answers. Its bulletins give 
nonth by month reports on the production results of the many 
Commercial or semi-educational bodies producing a regular 
equence of films for schools and colleges. Its special reports 
[over the film contribution to the teaching of selected subjects, 
ts journal " Sight and Sound " in full pre-war form described 
nd illustrated teaching methods with the substandard projector 
n the classroom. The Institute's experts were prepared to 
nswer queries on all technical matters connected with visual 
ids to instruction. 

The reason for inaction is reaction. Reaction among the 
achers themselves to a new medium, the teachers who once 
lought their livelihood threatened by broadcasting, and were 
30 indifferent and too lazy to adapt their repetitive annual 
urricula to include new material. Reaction among Local 
Education Authorities watching the extra penny-fraction on 
le rates. Reaction in the Board of Education itself in not 
iking a firm financial stand, equipping all major schools with 
3und projectors operated by the school electrician (not the 
arassed teacher), and launching its own studios for the making 
f instructional films according to an enlightened and carefully 
fanned policy. This need not hinder the work of the com- 
lercial studios which have hitherto been the main source of 
Im education, notably G.B. Instructional. Their work could 

encouraged and increased, for what G.B. Instructional most 
seds is an assured and wide distribution of the films in the 
hools of this and other countries. The international exchange 
f expensively made and important instructionals is obviously 
lother side of the work in which the Board failed to give any 
ad before the war. 

162 FILM 

For the cinema is pre-eminently suitable for instruction if 
money, time, thought and skill are given to the preparation of 
first-class films. It starts with the assured attention which the 
hypnosis of the bright moving picture in the dark room exercises 
on the child. It has the closest approach to actuality of 
any medium of reproduction as yet devised. It can, by its 
processes of slow and quick motion, its use of telephoto and 
microscopic lenses and its innumerable technical advantages, 
reveal the processes of life and machinery with vivid accuracy. 
It can guide attention and concentrate interest. It can reproduce 
history in terms which can be understood by the child. It can 
visit foreign lands, and explore peoples and remote places. It 
can explain mechanical, mathematical and industrial processes. 
It can summarise vocations for the adolescent choice. There 
is nothing in the material world which seems barred to it. Its 
limitations are apparent only in the realm of philosophy or 
dogma : here it can teach only by career, or materialised example. 
But by the time such subjects are of value to the human being, 
books are recognised as the proper medium for learning them. 

The only planned use of the film for instructional purposes 
on a wide scale is in the Services. This, of course, is financed 
from public money. The Army, Navy and Air Force have 
elaborate film training, at any rate in theory. The films exist, 
and in some measure the widespread need for projecting equip- 
ment has 'been met. 

The use of films in colleges and universities is more consistent, 
though the scarcity of good material, except on the scientific 
side, is still a deterrent from the wider recognition of the use 
of cinema in adult education. In the hands of a good teacher 
of the social sciences, the documentary film itself is an important 
promoter of interest and discussion, apart from its artistic and 
propaganda values. 

No good teacher need fear the competition of the film. The] 
good teacher is the chairman of his group's discussion. The) 
film can promote that discussion. When prolonged explanation! 
is necessary the teacher does not fear the competition of thei 
textbook or the wireless talk. Well made and well projected,] 
the film can give his class the stimulus to learn about life andj 
society and to discuss all problems with him. 

The bad teacher has everything to fear : the exposure of hid 
ignorance, the absence of his humanity. If the film can help tcj 



rid the schools of his influence, education and society will have 
advanced a stage nearer world civilisation. 


In the course of discussion the minority theatre has fre- 
quently been mentioned. The minority theatre begins with the 
private group exhibiting films on a substandard projector and 
ends with the small * specialised commercial cinema playing 
repertory (revivals of notable films) or short runs of films of 
minority appeal, such as documentary and foreign cinema 
appeared to be before the war. When the issue of an S certi- 
ficate was discussed in connection with Censorship, it was this 
type of theatre which was in mind for the exhibition of S films. 

All over Britain small groups have been formed for the 
exhibition of films which could not be found in the programmes 
of the commercial theatres. These groups may meet in large 
rooms, halls, institutes, colleges or public buildings of all types, 
or even, if membership and opportunities allow, in cinemas 
out of the hours of commercial showing time. Societies with 
specialised interests have developed, such as the Scientific Film 
Society and its branches, and the Religious Film Societies. 
Groups meet to view and discuss the uses of educational films. 
The Workers' Film Association specialises in the distribution 
of films on labour and co-operative problems. Organisations 
like the Central Council for Health Education issue lists of 
recommended films in their line of interest. In addition there 
are the educational and documentary libraries, loaning films 
freely, like the Central Film Library (E.M.B., G.P.O. and M.O.I. 
libraries combined), the British Council Film Department 
(foreign-commentated films), British Commercial Gas Associa- 
tion Film Department and Petroleum Films Bureau. There are 
large commercial libraries which distribute, documentary, 
instructional and feature films for hire on substandard (Gaumont 
British Instructional, Wallace Heaton Ltd., Pathescope). There 
is finally the important historical library attached to the British 
Film Institute, with films available on loan. 

Most important feature films and many (especially foreign) 
documentaries are not available on 16 mm. For their exhibition 
standard apparatus is required, and with the use of inflammable 
film the licensing and certificate regulations come once more 
into force. The London Film Society gave the lead to the 

164 FILM 

country as a whole by starting regular exhibitions to its members 
in 1925 at the New Gallery cinema on Sundays. After ex- 
hausting the Continental films available in this country, it was 
forced to act as an importer and eventually as a distributor 
when other Film Societies, following this enterprising lead, 
developed in the provinces. The palmy period for the pro- 
vincial Film Societies, starting with Glasgow in 1929, wa! in 
the early thirties. The provinces discovered life afresh in 
British documentary and Continental feature. Russian films, 
ten years old, were as new wine. By the time the great silent 
films were exhausted, the greater sound films were arriving to 
take their place. 

The Trade, cautious at first, eventually launched out and a 
number of Continental sound films were shown (Clair's par- 
ticularly) in the provinces. But small specialist theatres (open 
to the public, not closed, like the Film Societies, to a member- 
ship) grew up, such as the Academy or Studio One in London, 
and the Cosmo in Glasgow. These theatres are of the greatest 
importance in the development of public taste. The gradual 
spread of interest in the art can come only if the public can 
have available the best films from studios all over the world. 
This can be done only by the specialised theatre of small seating 
capacity and comparatively light overhead expenses. The 
Nazi system of the remission of entertainment tax for such 
cinemas would be a Government gesture in a democracy. An 
alternative in towns unable to support a full-time specialised 
theatre would be the regular exhibition in ordinary cinemas of 
notable films on Sundays. The remission of tax would encour- 
age cinemas to make bookings of such films, possibly once a 
month. This would be a near equivalent to a public Film 

For art, if it is to found a permanent tradition, must always 
be integrated from the needs and well-being of the people as a 
whole. A minority art is a closed art. The evil in the Film 
Societies is the precious self-perfection of the consciously 
superior member. It is too easy an escape from the responsi- 
bilities of education to lust after remote expression and recondite 
technique. The responsibility of being educated is the responsi- 
bility of discovering enlightened methods of expression which 
will make the problems of human institutions and the com- 
plexities of human nature more clear to those who take their 


part in them without cultural advantage. The problem of the 
educated minority is the problem of the technique of leadership. 
The Minority Cinema is the pioneer cinema. Every educated 
community should possess one so that the opportunity to 
see important films of limited box-office value shall be open to all. 


This brief survey of the salient position of the cinema in 
present-day affairs is necessarily incomplete. It has not shown 
anything of the work of the film in the smaller countries, in 
pre-Nazi Norway, Denmark and Czechoslovakia for instance. 
The Eastern cinema of India, China and Japan presents problems 
untouched here. The developments of the Western-made film 
for the African native and the experiments in visual education 
for primitive peoples are omitted. No adequate study has been 
given of the studio itself, or the executive aspect of the film* 

An attempt has been made to show what seems good and 
what bad in the contemporary film as a whole. Its capabilities 
as an art have been reviewed. As far as possible its effect has 
been assessed on the enormous audiences it brings together. 
That it is a medium of consequence no responsible person can 
now deny. To prove that it has a major part to play in the 
shaping of the post-war world and in the construction of a 
popular international culture is the more urgent intention of 
this book. 

The power behind the film cannot be left in the hands of 
irresponsible people. Variety is essential, but not the purpose- 
less squandering of film resources for the gain of a few people, 
too many of whom neglect progressive production because they 
have learnt to value their films solely in terms of financial 
interest. The same sense of responsibility should mark the pro- 
duction of films as informs the publication of books by the major 
publishing houses. A bad film is bad entertainment though it 
may not necessarily, for the reasons given before, prove bad 
box-office. The name of the production company and the name 
of the director should be as prominent in all publicity as the 
author and publisher of a book. The public is learning to 
anticipate the quality of a film by the reputation of the producer 
and artists who made it. 

166 FILM 

There is no easy way from here, and no quick way. The 
commercial cinema is showing, slowly but definitely, an in- 
creasing sense of social responsibility. Directors and producers 
are being selected and publicised for the quality of their work: 
exhibitors are learning that to show a serious film is not always 
to show a serious loss. The younger public, gradually joining 
the adult world with better instruction from their schools, need 
not be regarded any longer as a potential cross-section of low 
life. Political and social thought, however primitive and 
unguided, is developing. The period after the war will be 
a continuous public event, an opportunity for documentary, 
newsreel and feature alike to take their place in a growing world. 
The puerilities of censorship must be ironed away by public 
demand for public opinion. Jhe right to understand must be 
distinguished from the desire to agitate. We must tell the 
agents of reaction who fear the blue sky that the new young 
world can take the sun in its eyes without the old world's eye- 

It is tfee duty of the producer to give the lead, of the director ! 
to use the means, of the exhibitor to give the chance, and of the j 
public to support the film. It is the duty of the critic to help 
discriminate within the vast resources of film supply. 

Where do we go from here ? 

Do we go back to pre-war dope and depression, or do we 
go forward to recreation and actuality, to a vigorous inter- 
national art in a vigorous international community ? 

The choice is yours and theirs and mine. 


There is no reason why not. , 

The first decision to make is the scale upon which the pro- 
ceedings are to be run. You can either start a Film Society 
on 16 mm. substandard (which is cheap) or by gathering a 
membership of sufficient dimensions to be able to hire a cinema 
on a Sunday afternoon. Or you may be lucky enough to live 
in a town where some College or institution has a 35 mm. 

The second decision is one of objective. Is the society to 
cater for a limited interest (for example scientific or religious), 
or for the widest possible interest, taking all types of film for 
its province? Once these decisions have been taken a small 
executive committee should be formed to initiate the necessary 
publicity for membership. The executive committee should not 
ibe so large that it can never meet, or so small that it is not 
representative of a variety of educational and social interests. 
jit should contain a representative of each of the chief social 
bodies, like the teaching profession and the trade unions, which 
can help through their own organisations to build up a reliable 
membership. The committee should contain an accountant, 
or someone with training in figures, to act as treasurer, a person 
of organisational experience to act as secretary, and at least 
one person with knowledge of films and projection. If the 
society is to meet in a cinema, the manager of the cinema 
selected should be on the committee; his help, if sympathetic, 
can be invaluable. The chairman should be of sufficient 
personality to stop discussions on montage. 

Taking a substandard society first, it should be assumed that 
a good programme, with a feature film, cannot be assembled for 
under about five pounds. A person or organisation should be 
found (in a college, institute or school in the first place) in 
possession of a 16 mm. sound projector (and a sound pro- 
jectionist). A certain sum should be allowed off the revenue 
to put aside for projector spares and for servicing of the machine. 


168 FILM ■ 

Allowance should also be made for the printing or duplicating 
of tickets and other publicity, and for the use of a hall. 

It is best to sign on one hundred and fifty members before 
launching out too far. Sound films are expensive to hire 
though many documentaries can be obtained free. It is worth 
while to spare no pains to make your first shows successful 
in programme, presentation and audience. Good audiences 
attract better. Substandard shows for a shilling or one-and- 
six a performance will attract a wide audience if the programmes 
are good and well put over, and the building where they are 
shown is easily accessible by public transport. 

Do not forget there is no legal hold over a substandard film 
show. No licence is necessary ; but it is always as well to use 
a hall licensed for dances and meetings, with good seating and 
marked exits at the rear. The hall should be good acoustically 
(get advice if you are not sure). The screen should be mounted 
as high as possible so that the picture is clear above the heads 
of all* the audience when seated. Stewards with torches are 

Clear yourself finally with -the Inland Revenue. A Film 
Society is an educational organisation: you can, and should, 
claim exemption from Entertainments Tax on this head. This 
applies also to .shows organised for a membership in a cinema. 
Good documentary films rank, quite rightly, as educational : 
they should be included in every programme if you are to be 
justified in claiming exemption. 

Second, the Public Cinema Film Society. It is essential for 
the Executive, when it has its objective defined, to meet the Trade 
with a view to finding a sympathetic manager. Choose aj 
cinema, if possible, of small capacity yet centrally placed, such I 
as a news theatre. If you are to hold your membership, the ] 
situation of the cinema is in the end of greater importance than I 
its capacity. The Society can easily bo confined to the balcony of J 
a large cinema. Choose a house which does not open too early j 
on Sunday evenings. Sunday afternoon is the best time to] 
open. The manager will explain the complexities of the exten- j 
sion of the Sunday-opening licence. 

This licence may cause you and the manager a battle with 
the Licensing Bench. It is well to find out the mood of the 
Bench on the subject, and if necessary the mood of the Watch ) 
Committee. A friendly town councillor is of great assistance i 



here : so is a broad-minded pillar of the Church. You must be 
prepared, along with the manager, to fight for your Sunday- 
opening rights before the Licensing Bench. Whatever their 
attitude, remember they are the servants of the State, not its 

Film Selection 

The Society should next pay a guinea a year through one of 
its members and join the British Film Institute. The service, 
advice, publications and Film Library of the Institute are of 
greatest service to any type of Film Society. Its monthly 
bulletin is a complete record of film releases of all kinds, with 
reviews and synopses. Its catalogues are fascinating for the 
wealth of old and new film material available. You should also 
subscribe to " Documentary News Letter " ; its specialised news 
on documentary and its reviews and articles contain material 
not to be found in the Institute's publications. It costs only 
six shillings a year. 

The catalogues of the following film libraries should be 
obtained : 


British Commercial Gas Association, 1, Gros- 

venor Place, London, S.W.I 
British Instructional Films, Film House, 

Wardour Street, London, W.l. . 

Central Film Library, Imperial Institute, 
London, S.W.7. (Incorporating G.P.O. and 
Empire Film Libraries with Ministry of 
Information Films.) 

Gaumont British Equipments, Gebescope 
Library, Tower House, Woodchester, near 
Stroud, Glos 

National Film Library of the British Film 
Institute, 4, Great Russell Street, London, 
W.C.I . 

Pathescope, City Sale and Exchange, 2, Poultry, 
Cheapside, E.C.2 



Shorts and 



and Fiction 


170 FILM 

Library. Subjects. 

Petroleum Films Bureau, 46, St. James' Place, 
London, W.l . . . . . . Documentary 

Religious Film Library, Jasper Road, Nor- 
wood, S.E.I 9 Religious 

Wallace Heaton Limited, 127, New Bond 

Street, London, W.l .... Feature 

Workers' Film Association Ltd., Transport 
House, Smith Square, London, S.W.I . Documentary 

Remember during wartime not to apply needlessly for a 
catalogue. All are in restricted supply. 

For the renting of films on 35 mm. stock it is necessary to 
find out the distributors (as distinct from 'the film libraries for 
16 mm.). The British Film Institute can tell you who the 
distributor is for any given film. Some of the older Continental 
films can be obtained from the stock held by the London Film 
Society. Arrangements for renting the films and for their 
despatch can be made by the cinema manager on the Society's 
behalf. If he is unable to do this, act on his advice. There 
will be transit charges on the 35 mm. films. 

It is best to form a film selection sub-committee of three or 
so well-assorted members of the main executive committee. 
The search for available films should be vested in them, and 
they should make up specimen programmes with estimated 
charges for consideration by the executive committee, or by 
the members as a whole. 

Finally* keep your members together by an inclusive charge 
for, say, a six-month season based on your estimated overheads, 
with a. good margin. The film world is not an easy world to 
handle, and mistakes can and do happen. There will be heart- 
aches and headaches, and a reserve local programme should be 
kept in readiness should film despatch at any time let you 
down. A reserve substandard projector is also a comfort. 

A well-organised Film Society is one of the greatest pleasures 
obtainable, and a definite addition to the social life of any 
community ; from it can branch out all types of cultural activity, 
discussion groups, W.E.A. classes on the film, even film-making 
groups working on substandard documentary during the summer 
when it is not advisable to run large-scale film performances. 
The Society can acquire a library, or work in conjunction with 


the local town library, ensuring that all new film titles are added 
to the shelves. A large Film Society can run branches on sub- 
standard for specialised interests — such as health, education, 
science, religion and travel. A small group, carefully organised, 
can be developed into a large and flourishing society filling a 
cinema at two successive performances. 


A Few Technical Terms in Frequent Use in Books 

Continuity Title: a title bridging two shots in silent cinema, 
or introducing a new sequence or development in the 
sound film. 

Credit Title : the lists of names giving credit to the various 
technical and acting staff who have made the film. Con- 
siderable artistry can be used in the way the titles are 
presented, as in- Of Mice and Men. 

Dubbing : see under Post-synchronise. 

Dunning Process : the technical process of setting an action 
shot in the studios against a background shot elsewhere. 
This saves going on location, or shooting the action against 
some distant genuine background, such as St. Paul's 
Cathedral or the South Sea islands. 

Non-flam. : non-inflammable film stock. This is normally 
limited to substandard film stock, but standard films are 
sometimes printed on non-flam, stock for special purposes. 
Non-flam, is the basis of the substandard freedom from 
legal interference on the grounds of licensing. 

Post-synchronise: to add sound, that is a sound track, after 
the film has been shot silent. All types of sound, music, 
dialogue or natural sound, can be added or dubbed. 

Standard Stock: 35 mm. width film, as used in cinemas. 
Normally highly inflammable.^ 

Still: a photograph taken by an ordinary still camera 
during the making of a film. It is normally specially 
posed, and is quite distinct from the process of shooting 
in motion. Stills can be enlarged from the movie print 

Stock : is film-stock, the celluloid itself, usually before exposure. 
The completed film is referred to as a print. 

Substandard Stock: can be 16 mm., 9-5 mm. and 8 mm. 
Used on portable projectors for the private or semi-private 
show. The film is non-flam. 

Superimposed Title: the superimposition of words upon the 



visual image itself. Used chiefly to interpret the dialogue 
of foreign films without altering the sound track. 
Synchronise: to keep the sound and picture accurately in 
harmony. Since light travels from screen to audience 
more quickly than the sound from the amplifiers, the sound 
precedes the image on the celluloid by some nineteen frames. 


N.B. — Books marked * are of greater importance. 
1. Film History 

*" The Film Till Now." Paul Rotha. Cape, 1930. A fine and 
very detailed account of the achievement of the silent 
cinema. Good technical and aesthetic criticism. 

" Celluloid." Paul Rotha. Longmans, Green and Co., .1931. 
A sequel to the above, entering upon the sound film. 

*" Documentary Film." Paul Rotha. Faber and Faber, 1936. 
An important historical record of documentary, with an 
evaluation of its achievement. Revised edition, 1939. 

" Movies for the Millions." Gilbert Seldes. Batsford, 1937. 
A very readable account of the chief trends of the cinema 
from an historical angle, with the chief emphasis on 
American film. 

*" History of the Film." Bardeche and Brasillach. Translated 
and edited by Iris Barry. Allen and Unwin, 1938. With 
Lewis Jacob's book below and the works of Paul Rotha, 
the most satisfactory history of the cinema. Marie Seton's 
articles in " Sight and Sound " are also important. 

"The Film Answers Back." E. W. and M. M. Robson. 
Bodley Head, 1939. A spirited defence of the American 
film for its healthy sociological content as contrasted with 
the decadence of European cinema. 

*" The Rise of the American Film." Lewis Jacobs. Harcourt 
Brace and Co., New York, 1940. " In ' The Rise of the 
American Film ' film history reaches its maturity." Review 
in " Sight and Sound." 

2. The Art of the Film 

Film Technique." V. I. Pudovkin. Translated by Ivor 
Montagu. Gollancz, 1929. New edition, Newnes, 1933. 
An essential book. The sections added in the Newnes 
edition carry forward into sound. 
Cinema." C. A. Lejeune. Maclehose, 1931. A collection 
of excellent reviews, dealing with many distinguished 
directors and actors. 




"Scrutiny of Cinema." William Hunter. Wishart, 1932. 
Using certain outstanding films as the key to his review of 
cinema, the author assesses its general achievement up to 

♦"Film." Rudolf Arnheim. Faber, 1933. The most com- 
plete aesthetic of cinema yet written. Not easy reading on 
the whole. 

"The Private Life of Henry VIII." Lajos Biro and Arthur 
Wimperis. Edited by Ernest Betts. Methuen, 1934. A 
complete scenario, nicely cleaned up for the press. But 
useful and illuminating, as well as entertaining. 

*" A Grammar of the Film." Raymond Spottiswoode. Faber, 
1935. Rather academic in approach, but one of the few 
competent books on the technique of the film. 

" Film Acting." V. 1. Pudovkin. Translated by Ivor Montagu. 
Newnes, 1935. A later book than "Film Technique," it 
contains Pudovkin's detailed comments on the work of the 
Russian actor. 

" Film Craft." Adrian Brunei. Newnes, no date. The studio 
and scenario in working dress. A collection of many 
interesting comments from different participants in the 
collective film job. 

" Film Music." Kurt London. Faber, 1936. Designed rather 
for the musician than the layman, but of considerable 
general interest. 

" Film and Theatre." Allardyce Nicoll. Harrap, 1936. A 
fairly elementary textbook of cinema technique by a 
distinguished historian of the drama. 

*" Movie Parade." Compiled by Paul Rotha. Studio, 1936. 
A fine collection of stills giving a pictorial history of 
cinema in its various branches. Of the greatest fascination 
and interest. 

*" Garbo and the Night-Watchmen." Alistair Cooke. Cape, 
1937. Cooke calls this a bedside book. Its bedside 
manner is limited to keeping the reader awake. Satiric, 
amusing, caustic comments by American and British critics 
of distinction and wit. 

" The Cinema as a Graphic Art." Vladimir Nilsen. Newnes, 
no date. A Russian cameraman's textbook on the aesthetics 
of his art. 

" Designing for Moving Pictures." Edward Carrick. Studio, 

176 FILM 

1941. An excellent book on the design and structure of 
film sets and properties. 
*"The Film Sense." S. M. Eisenstein. Faber, 1943. Of 
great importance, but difficult and sometimes perverse to 
read. Published after this book was written. 

3. The Film and Society 

" The New Spirit in the Cinema." Huntly Carter. Shaylor, 
1930. A rather pretentious book on sociological lines. 
But full of useful information. 

*" The Film in National Life." A. C. Cameron. Allen and 
Unwin, 1932. " Being the Report of an Enquiry con- 
ducted by the Commission on Educational and Cultural 
Films into the Service which the Cinematograph may 
render to Education and Social Progress." 

" The Censor, the Drama and the Film, 1900-1934." Dorothy 
Knowles. . Alien and Unwin, 1934. A history of the 
effect of censorship on the drama; with an additional 
section on the cinema. 

*"The Arts Today." Edited by Geoffrey Grigson. Bodley 
Head, 1935. Contains an important article, mainly from 
the social angle, by John Grierson. 

" Soviet Cinema." Voks, Moscow, 1936. A Russian- 
produced piece of triumphant publicity resulting from the 
release of Chapaev and the birth of the new Soviet Cinema. 

"The African and the Cinema." L. A. Notcutt and G. C. 
Latham. Edinburgh House Press, 1937. A remarkable 
' study of the special technique required in the production 
and projection of films for primitive peoples. 

*" Money Behind the Screen." F. D. Klingender and Stuart 
Legg. Lawrence and Wishart, 1937. The financial struc- 
ture of the British Film Industry, with a less detailed 
summary of the American industry. Important revelation 
of vested interests. 

*" The Children at the Cinema." Richard Ford. Allen and 
Unwin, 1939. An important study of the place of the 
cinema in child life. 

*" America at the Movies." Margaret Thorp. Yale Univer- 
sity Press, 1939. An important book difficult to obtain in 
this country. Eighty-five million a week go to the American 
Movies. Margaret Thorp examines what they want, what 


they get, and how the industry organises them to want 
what they get. She covers the reasons for star-glamour, 
the fashion parade of stunts, the organisation of the pro- 
moter-producer-director-exhibitor-public cycle, the work of 
the Hays Office and the power of the Legion of Decency. 
She shows how luxury trades use the movies to stimulate 
sales, and she closes down on the American public's favour- 
able reaction to films with a more realistic angle on con- 
temporary social problems. 
U.S.S.R. Speaks for Itself." Vol. IV, Culture and Leisure.. 
Lawrence and Wishart, 1941. The short article by Eisen- 
stein on the Russian Cinema should be read for its account 
of the structure of the Soviet industry. 

4. Miscellaneous 
" Merton of the Movies." Harry Leon Wilson. Cape, 1936. 

A satiric though realistic book about the earlier days of 

silent Hollywood. Great fun. Originally published in 

America in 1922. 
"Voyage to Puerilia." Elmer Rice. Gollancz, 1930. An 

amusing and satiric novel set in the wonderland of the 

silent movie story convention. 
" Stardust in Hollywood." Jan and Cora Gordon. Harrap, 

1930. An amusing, witty and revealing autobiography of 

six months spent working (or something) in Hollywood. 

Highly recommended. 
" For Filmgoers Only." Edited by R. S. Lambert. Faber, 

1934. A collection of essays on various aspects of cinema, 

written with the cultural and educational angle in mind. 

Quick reading. 
" Secrets of Nature." Mary Field and Percy Smith. Faber, 

1934. A book of great interest on the making of nature 

films. Microphotography at its finest : man, illustrations. 
"The Movies on Trial." W. J. Perlman. Macmillan, New 

York, 1936. A symposium of American opinion on the 

film. Chiefly sociological. 
*" Footnotes to the Film." Edited by Charles Davy. Lovat 

Dickson, Ltd., 1937. The best of the anthologies of 

■ aspects.' Highly recommended, though a few of the 

articles are below the average standard. 
"The Cinema Today." D. A. Spencer and H. D. Waley. 

178 FILM 

Oxford University Press, 1939. A first-class and most 
readable book on the technical side of photography, 
recording and projecting of films. 

*" Promised Land." Cedric Belfrage. Gollancz, 1939. A 
study of the development of property in Hollywood; a 
documentary story delivered from the political left; a 
terrible indictment of unhindered speculation and exploita- 
tion in site and building values in a new community. - 

" Cine-Biology." J. V. Durden, Mary Field and Percy Smith. 
Penguin, 1941. A development of the subject of " Secrets 
of Nature " for Pelican Books. 

5. Periodicals 

" Kinematograph Weekly." One shilling weekly. An excellent 
illustrated record of trade feeling from the exhibitors' angle. 
Contains all the news about new films, with reviews, 
publicity, etc. 

*" Documentary News Letter." Sixpence monthly. To be 
obtained by private subscription only. Should be taken 
by everybody interested in the welfare of cinema, its 
cultural value, its use for propaganda. Chief interest, the 
documentary film. Application for copies should be made 
to Film Centre, 34, Soho Square, London, W.l. 

The Publications of the British Film Institute, 4, Great Russell 
Street, London, W.C.I. Full membership is a guinea per 
annum. Membership, in addition to giving the subscriber 
the benefits of the Institute's expert advice, also extends to 
the borrowing of films from the Film Library at privilege 
rates. The subscription also covers the regular and 
occasional publications of the Institute. The regular 
publications can be subscribed to separately, and are as 

*" Sight and Sound." Quarterly; annual subscription 2s. 6d. 
In pre-war form a well-produced magazine on all aspects 
of the film, with special emphasis on its use for educational 

♦"The Film Bulletin." Published monthly; annual sub- 
scription 4s. Indispensable for record purposes. A title 
by title review of all films released, both feature and short. 


By Ernest Lindgren 
{Curator of the Library) 

Many who have followed Dr. Manvell through this survey will 
be impressed with the power of the cinema as a social force 
and with the need to improve the quality of film production; 
but they will equally be impressed by the highly complex and 
powerful organisation of the cinema industry, and may well 
wonder whether there is anything ordinary people can do within 
the realm of practical politics to achieve this end. 

The only effective solution is a long-term one: to educate 
film audiences. The man who pays his shilling at the box-office 
is the one who can order any tune he wants from the apparently 
all-powerful pipers of the film industry — if only there are 
enough of him. People, and especially young people, must be 
shown that intelligent and informed criticism can increase their 
delight in film going; it can make the films they see, not so 
much the short-lived opiate of the escapist, as works to be 
selected, enjoyed, discussed, remembered, and in some cases to 
be seen again. 

The ripples stirred by the pioneer work of the film societies 
have spread in ever-widening circles until now even teachers and 
administrators of education, whose attitude in the past has 
generally been one of academic aloofness, are beginning to show 
a lively interest. The. claims of film appreciation as a new 
subject, at least in the fields of continued and adult education, 
are beginning to be heard. The British Film Institute is anxious 
to encourage film appreciation ; it is the function of the National 
Film Library to provide material for its study. 

Primarily, the purpose of the Library is to preserve films 
and film records of historical value. Because celluloid film 
and its thin coating of photographic emulsion are, on any long- 
term view, extremely fragile, the originals in the Library can- 
not be projected on to the screen; for this purpose copies 
have to be made. This means that by an unfortunate necessity 


180 FILM 

much of the Library's collection is momentarily submerged, 
held in trust for the future. 1 

A number of films, however, selected for their value as 
illustration material for appreciation courses in schools and 
for historical programmes for film societies, have already been 
copied, and 16 mm. and 35 mm. prints can be obtained through 
the Library's Loan Section at moderate hiring fees. In some 
cases composite films have been specially edited from selected 
excerpts. " A Catalogue of the Lo£n Section," with brief 
historical and technical notes, can be obtained from the Film 
Institute. The Library has also published a pamphlet, " Film 
Appreciation for Discussion Groups and Schools," which 
suggests various ways in which the subject may be approached, 
and includes a list of recommended books. Beyond this we 
welcome the enquiries of those who want assistance on any 
particular problem. The Loan Section, in short, is that part 
of the National Film Library ' open to the public ' : and we dre 
anxious to do all we can to ensure that they enjoy the most 
fruitful use of it. The pamphlets referred to above cab be 
obtained for l\d. each, including postage, on application to the 
British Film Institute, 4, Great Russell Street, London, S.W.7. 

Many films mentioned in this book can be obtained on 16 mm. 
stocjc. The chief titles include Nanook of the North (Flaherty), 
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene), The Last Laugh (Murnau), 
Berlin (Ruttm^n), The Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein), Mother 
(Pudovkin), General Line (Eisenstein), Kameradschaft (Pabst), 
Song of Ceylon (Wright), The Plow that Broke the Plains and 
The*River (Lorentz), Housing Problems (Elton). The composite 
film covering the history of realist cinema, Film and Reality, 
made by Cavalcanti for the National Film Library, is strongly 
recommended, since it includes sequences from many of the 
pre-war films mentioned in the section on Documentary. 

1 Except for the individual student who can look at films on a 


This List, compiled early in 1943, is not intended to be com- 
prehensive. It represents some of the best work in the general 
development of the film, but not all. For more recent films 
see back of cover. 

Asquith, Anthony 

Tell England, 1930 

Pygmalion, 1938 (with 
Leslie Howard) 

Freedom Radio, 1941 

Quiet Wedding, 1941 

Cottage to Let, 1941 
Bartosch, Berthold 

LTdee, 1934 
Baxter, Richard 

Love on the Dole, 1941 

The Common Touch, 1941 
Bell, Geoffrey 

Control Room, 1943 
Benoit-Levy, Jean 

La Maternelle, 1933 (with 
Marie Epstein) 
Berger, Ludwig 

Cinderella, 1923 
Borzage, Frank 

The Mortal Storm, 1940 
Boulting Brothers 

Pastor Hall, 1940 

Thunder Rock, 1942 
Capra, Frank 

American Madness, 1932 

It Happened One Night, 

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, 
1936 . 

Lost Horizon, 1937 

Mr. Smith Goes to Washing- 
ton, 1939 

Meet John Doe, 1941 

Carne, Marcel 

Quai des Brumes, 1939 
Cavalcanti, Alberto 

Rien que les Heures, 1926 

En Rade, 1928 

Pett and Pott, 1934 

Coalface, 1935 

We Live in Two Worlds, 
Chaplin, Charles 

The Pilgrim, 1923 

A Woman of Paris, 1923 

The Gold Rush, 1925 

The Circus, 1928 

City Lights, 1931 

Modern Times, 1936 

The Great Dictator, 1940 
Chenal, P. 

Crime and Punishment, 1935 
Clair, Rene 

The Italian Straw Hat, 1928 

Sous les Toits de Paris, 1930 

Le Million, 1931 

A Nous la Liberte, 1931 

Le Dernier Milliardaire, 

The Ghost Goes West, 1935 
Coward, Noel 

In Which we Serve, 1943 
(with David Lean) 
Cruze, James 

The Covered Wagon, 1923 
Cukor, George 

Romeo and Juliet, 1936 




Cukor, George — com, 

Camille, 1937 

The Women, 1939 
Czinner, Paul 

Der traumende Mund, 1932 

Katherine the Great, 1934 

As You Like It, 1936 
De Mille, Cecil B. 

The Plainsman, 1937 

Union Pacific, 1939 
Dickinson, Thorold 

Spanish A.B.C., 1938 

Gaslight, 1940 

The Prime Minister, 1941 

Next of Kin, 1942 


The Story of Louis Pasteur, 

The Life of Emile Zola, 1937 

Juarez, 1939 

Doctor Ehrlich's Magic 
Bullet, 1940 

This Man Reuter, 1941 
Disney, Walt 

Snow White, 1938 

Pinocchio, 1940 

Fantasia, 1941 

Reluctant Dragon, 1941 

Bambi, 1942 

Dumbo, 1942 
Dovzhenko, A. 

Arsenal, 1928 

Earth, 1930 

Ivan, 1933 

Shors, 1942 
Dreyer, Karl 

La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc. 
Duvivier, Jean 

Poil de Carrotte, 1933 

Pepe le Moko, 1937 

Duvtvter, Jean — cant. 

Un Carnet de Bal, 1937 

La Belle Equipe, 1938 
Dzigan Y. 

We from Kronstadt, 1937 
Eisenstein, S. M. 

Battleship Potemkin, 1925 

October, 1928 

General Line, 1929 

Alexander Nevski, 1939 
Ekk, Nikolai 

The Road to Life, 1931 
Elton, Arthur 

The Voice of the World, 1933 

Aero-Engine, 1934 

Housing Problems, 1935 
Epstein, Jean 

The Fall of the House of 
Usher, 1927 

Finis Terrae, 1928 
Feyder, Jacques 

Les Nouveaux Messieurs, 

Therese Raquin, 1928 

La Kermesse Hero'ique, 1936 

Knight Without Armour, 
Flaherty, Robert 

Nanook of the North, 1920 

Moana, 1926 

Tabu, 1939 (with Murnau) 

Industrial Britain, 1933 (with 

Man of Aran, 1934 

Elephant Boy, 1936 
Fleming, Victor 

The Virginian, 1929 

Blonde Bombshell, 1933 
Ford, John 

The Iron Horse, 1924 

The Informer, 1935 


Ford, John — cont. 

The Plough and the Stars, 

Stagecoach, 1939 

Young Mr. Lincoln, 1939 

Grapes of Wrath, 1940 

Long Voyage Home, 1941 

How Green was my Valley, 
Forde, Walter 

Rome Express, 1933 
Franklin, Sidney 

The Good Earth, 1937 
Frend, Charles 

The Foreman went to 
France, 1942 

The Big Blockade, 1942 
Grierson, John 

Drifters, 1929 
Griffith, D. W. 

Birth of a Nation, 1913 

Intolerance, 1915 

Way Down East, 1921 
Grune, C. 

The Street, 1923 
Guitry, Sacha 

Bonne Chance, 1936 

Roman d'un Tricheur, 1937 

Remontons les Champs 
Elysees, 1940 

lis etaient neuf celibataires, 
Hawks, H. 

Scarface, 1932 

Sergeant York, 1941 
Hitchcock, Alfred 

Blackmail, 1929 

Secret Agent, 1936 

Sabotage, 1936 

The Lady Vanishes, 1938 

Rebecca, 1940 

Hitchcock, Alfred — cont. 

Foreign Correspondent, 

Suspicion, 1941 
Holmes, J. B. 

The Mine, 1935 

Merchant Seamen, 1941 

Coastal Command, 1942 
Howard, Leslie 

Pimpernel Smith, 1941 

First of the Few, 1942 
Ingram, Rex 

Four Horsemen of the 
Apocalypse, 1921 
Ivens, Joris 

Rain, 1929 

New Earth, 1931 

Spanish Earth, 1937 
Jennings, Humphrey 

Listen to Britain, 1942 
Keighley, William 

Green Pastures, 1936 

Man who Came to Dinner, 
Korda, Alexander 

Private Life -of Henry VIII, 

Rembrandt, 1936 
Lang, Fritz y 

Doctor Mabuse, 1922 

Siegfried, 1923 

Metropolis, 1926 

The Spy, 1928 

M, 1932 

Fury, 1936 

You Only Live Once, 1937 

Man Hunt, 1941 
Legg, StuXrt 

B.B.C., Voice of 'Britain, 



Lorentz, Pare 
The Plow that Broke the 

Plains, 1936 
The River, 1938 


Dubarry, 1919 

Sumurun, 1920 

Forbidden Paradise, 1924 

The Marriage Circle, 1924 
* Lady Windermere's Fan, 

The Student Prince, 1927 

The Merry Widow, 1934 

Ninotchka, 1940 
Mamoulion, W. 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 
March of Time 

1935 onwards . . . 
Marx Brothers 

Night at the Opera, 1936 

A Day at the Races, 1937 

Room Service, 1938 

At the Circus, 1939 

The Marx Brothers Go West, 

The Big Store, 1941 

Melies, Georges 
Doctor's Secret, 1900 

Menzies, W. C. 
Things to Corns, 1935 

Milestone, Lewis 
All Quiet on the Western 

Front, 1930 
Front Page, 1931 
Of Mice and Men, 1940 

Minkin, A. 
Professor Mamlock, 1939 
(with Rappoport) 

Murnau, F. W. 

The Last Laugh, 1925 

Tartuffe, 1925 

Faust, 1926 
Pabst, G. W. 

The Joyless Street, 1925 

Secrets of the Soul, 1926 

The Love of Jeanne Ney, 

Pandora's Box, 1928 

The White Hell of Pitz 
Palu, 1929 (with Fanck) 

Westfront (1918), 1930 

Dreigroschenoper, 1931 

Don Quixote, 1933 
Pagnol, Marcel 

Merlusse, 1936 

La Femme du Boulanger, 
Pal, Georg 

Ali Baba, 1936 
Pascal, G. 

Major Barbara, 1941 
Petrov, V. 

Peter the Great, 1939 
Pommer, Erich 

Vaudeville, 1925 (with E. A. 

Nina Petrovna, 1929 

Vessel of Wrath, 1938 

They Knew What They 
Wanted, 1940 
Powell, Michael 

The Edge of the World, 1937 

49th Parallel, 1941 

One of Our Aircraft is 
Missing, 1942 
Pudovkin, V. I. 

Mechanics of the Brain, 

Mother, 1926 


Pudovkin, V. L—cont. 

End of St. Petersburg, 1927 

The Heir to Jenghiz Khan 
(Storm over Asia), 1928 

Deserter, 1933 
Reiniger, Lotte 

Papageno, 1935 
Renoir, Jean 

Nana, 1924 

La Vie est a Nous, 1937 

Underworld, 1937 

La Grande Illusion, 193*8 

La Bete Humaine, 1939 

La Marseillaise, 1940 
Riefenstahl, Leni 

The Blue Light, 1933 

The 11th Olympic Games, 
Room, Alexander 

Bed and Sofa, 1927 

The Ghost That Never 
Returns, 1929 
Rotha, Paul 

Contact, 1932 

The Face of Britain, 1935 

Shipyard, 1935 
Roy, Mervyn le 

I am a Fugitive from a Chain 
Gang, 1932 

They Won't Forget, 1937 
Ruggles, Leslie 

Cimarron, 1930 
Ruttmann, W. 

Berlin, 1927 
Sagan, Leontine 

Madchen in Uniform, 1931 
Santell, Alfred 

Winterset, 1936 
Saville, Victor 

South Riding, 1938 

Smythe, F. S. 
Kamet Conquered, 1933 

Sturges, Preston 
Christmas in July, 1940 
Palm Beach Story, 1941 
Sullivan's Travels, 1942 

Taylor, Donald 

The Smoke Menace, 1937 
The Londoners, 1939 

Trauberg, I. Z. 

Son of Mongolia, 1936 

Trivas, V. 
War is Hell, 1933 

Turin, V. 
Turksib, 1929 

Van Dyke, W. S. 
The Thin Man, 1934 

Vassiliev Brothers 
Chapaev, 1935 

Vertov, D. 
Three Songs of Lenin, 1934 

Vidor, King 
The Crowd, 1928 
Hallelujah, 1929 
The Big Parade, 1936 
Stella Dallas, 1937 
North-West Passage, 1940 

Vigo, Jean 

L'Atalante, 1934 
Zero de Conduite, 1933 

Von Sternberg, Josef 
Underworld, 1927 
Docks of New York, 1928 
The Last Command, 1928 
Crime and Punishment, 1935 

Von Stroheim, E. 
Greed, 1923 
Wedding March, 1929 
The Blue Angel, 1930 



Watt, Harry 

Night Mail (with Wright), 

North Sea, 1938 

Britain Can Take It, 1940 

Squadron 992, 1940 

Target for Tonight, 1941 
Welles, Orson 

Citizen Kane, 1941 

The Magnificent Amber- 
sons, 1942 
Wellman, W. 

The Public Enemy, 1921 

Wiene, R. 

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 

Hands of Orlac, 1924 
Wilcox, Herbert 

Nell Gwyn, 1934 

Victoria the Great, 1937 

Sixty Glorious Years, 1938 
Wright, Basil 

Song of Ceylon, 1935 
Wyler, William 

Dead End, 1937 

The Letter, 1941 


Adeste Fideles, 98 

Aero-Engine, 81 

Airscrew, 97 

Alexander Nevski, 51 

All Quiet on the Western Front, 141 

Ammenkoenig, Der, 144 

A Nous la Liberie, 75, 141, 144 

Atalante, L\ 32, 33, 38, 65, 75 

Baptism of Fire, 151-2 

Barretts of Wimpole Street, The, 37 

Battleship Potemkin, The, 34, 43, 

47-50, 63, 93 
B.B.C.— The Voice of Britain, 81 
Berlin, 80, 90, 104 
Birth of a Nation, The, 13, 18, 72 
Black Fury, 141 
Blockade, 145 
Blood Transfusion, 98 
Blue Light, The, 12 
Britain Can Take It, 97 

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The, 39, 40 

Cable Ship, 81 

Canada Carries On Series, 105 

Cargo from Jamaica, 81 

Carnet de Bal, Un, 34, 36, 64 

Chapaev, 51, 69 

Children at School, 89, 94 

Citizen Kane, 12, 31, 32, 33, 36, 57, 

67, 105, 133, 136, 104 
Coalface, 85, 87-9 
Coastal Command, 97, 9'8 
Coming of the Dial, The, 81 
Contact, 81, 85, 87 
Cover to Cover, 94 
Covered Wagon, The, 73, 107 
Cure, The, 39 

Dante's Inferno, 74 

Dawn of Iran, 95 

Dead End, 140 

Dernier Milliardaire, Le, 63, 75 

Deserter, 12, 36, 51, 52, 55, 57, 66 

Drifters, 80, 81, 84, 85, 88 

Earthbound, 74 

Easy Street, 39 

Edge of the World, The, 33 

Elephant Boy, 84 

Entr'acte, 74 

Face of Britain, The, 81, 94 

Fantasia, 33, 72, 78 

Faust, 39 

Femme du Boulanger, La, 32 

Ferry Pilot, 97, 98 

Film and Reality, 99 

Finis Terrie, 80 

First Days, The, 95 

First of the Few, The, 62, 109 

Five Faces, 95 

Foreman went to France, The, 107, 

49th Parallel, 140 
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 

The, 74 
Freedom Radio, 140 
Front of Action Series, The, .105 
Fury, 59, 127, 140 
Future is in the Air, The, 94 

General Line, The, 47 

Ghost goes West, The, 75 

Glass Key, The, 71 

Gone with the Wind, 18 

Good Earth, The, 140 

Grande Illusion, La, 140 

Granton Trawler, 81 

Grapes of Wrath, The, 12, 31, 32, 

33, 38, 59, 104, 107, 108-9, 111, 

Great Dictator, The, 140 
Great Mr. Handel, The, 74 
Great Train Robbery, The, 82 
Green Pastures, 141 

Harvest Shall Come, The, 98, 109 
Heir to Jenghiz Khan, The, 110 
Her Cardboard Lover, 60 
Housing Problems, 89, 94 
Jiow Green was my Valley, 140 

Idee, L\ 78-80, 145 

Industrial Britain, 81, 85 

Injustice, 141 

In the Rear of the Enemy, 51 

Intolerance, 13, 18, 39, 73 

Invisible Man, The, 74 

In Which We Serve, 12, 36, 62, 109 

Italian Straw Hat, The, 34, 75 

Kameradschaft, 56, 93, 141 




Kermesse HeroTque, La, 145 
Komsomol, 104 

Lancashire at Work and Play, 81 

Land without Bread, 104 

Last Night, The, 51 

Letter, The, 37 

Listen to Britain, 58, 98 

Londoners, The, 95, 99 

Long Voyage Home, The, 12, 25, 59 

M, 34 

Madchen in Uniform, 141 

Major Barbara, 59, 140 

Man of Aran, 32, 38, 83, 141 

March of Time, The, 30, 105-6, 144, 

Men of the Lightship, 62, 97, 98, 107 
Merchant Seamen, 62, 97, 98, 107-8 
Metropolis, 39, 41 
Mickey's Moving Day, 58 
Million, Le, 75 
Mine, The, 94 
Moana, 83 

Modern Times, 33, 73, 140 
Mortal Storm, The, 140 
Mother, 46, 47 

Mr. Deeds goes to Town, 33, 140 
My Two Husbands, 60, 65 

Nanook of the North, 33, 82, 84 

New Horizons, 95 

Newsreels, 82 

New Teacher, The, 51 

Next of Kin, 62, 109 

Night at the Opera, A, 75 

Night Mail, 57, 81, 85, 87-S 

Night Shift, 98 

North Sea, 95, 97, 99, 107 

Nutrition Film, The, 94 

O'er Hill and Dale, 81 
Oil from the Earth, 95 
Once in a Lifetime, 141 
One of our Aircraft is Missing, 62, 

Paris qui dort, 74 

Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, La, 34, 73 
Pastor Hall, 140 
Peter the Great, 31, 57 
Petrified Forest, The, 37 
Plow that broke the Plains, The, 

Private Life of Henry VIII, The, 

Professor Mamlock, 51 
Pygmalion, 59 

Quai des Brumes, 12 
Quatorze Juillet, Le, 63, 75 

Red Flyer, The, 51 
Reluctant- Dragon, The, 7& 
Remous, 37, 64, 66, 75 
Rien que les heures, 80, 104 
Rising Tide, The, 81 
River, The, 104-5 
Road to Life, The, 51, 55 
Ruggles of Red Gap, 151 

Saboteur, 22 

Safety Last, 73 

Scarf ace, 56, 59, 127 

Secret Agent, The, £2 

Secrets of Nature Series, 33 

Siege of Tobruk, 98 

Shipyard, 81, 85, 87 

Shors, 51 

Siegfried, 39, 73 

Six-thirty Collection, 81 

Smoke Menace, 95 

Snow White, 78, 136 

Song of Ceylon, 82, 85-7, 97 

Son of Mongolia, 51 

S.O.S. Radio Service, 81 

Sous les toits de Paris, 75 

South Riding, 140 

Spanish A. B.C., 95 

Spanish Earth, 104 

Spring comes to England, 82 

Spring on the Farm, 98 

Squadron, 992, 95, 97 

Steel goes to Sea, 85 

St. Martin's Lane, 22 

Story of Louis Pasteur, The, 141 

Strange Interlude, 57 

Street Fighting, 98 

Tabu, 83 

Target for Tonight, 12, 24, 97, 98, 

107, 152 
Telephone Workers, 81 
Things to Come, 65, 132, 140, 145 
Three Songs of Lenin, The, 34, 51 
Thunder Rock, 140 
Today we Live, 94 
Tom, Dick and Harry, 60 



Vaudeville, 37, 39, 41 
Victory in the West, 152 
Voice of the World,- 81 

Warning Shadows, 39 
Wa veil's 30,000, 98, 152 
Way down East, 39 
Weather Forecast, 81 
Wedding Night, The, 133 
We from Kronstadt, 51 

We Live in Two Worlds, 94 
Westfront 1918, 141 
Windmill in Barbados, 81 
Winterset, 12, 33, 34, 141 
Women, The, 140 
Workers and Jobs, 82, 94 

Young Mr. Lincoln, 140 

Zero de Conduite, 33, 141 


Ager, Cecilia, 131-2 
Alexaridrov, G., 47 
Anstey, Edgar, 80-1, 125 
Arnheim, R., 15, 41, 42, 51-4 
Astaire, Fred, 116 
Auden, \V. H., 57, 88-9 
Avant-garde Movement (French), 
80, 104 

Bartosch, Berthold, 79-80 

Baur, Harry, 36 

Becce, G., 62 

Bernstein, S., 126-7, 129 

Better Films Council, 145 

Bliss, Arthur, 63, 65 

Board of Education, 161 

Bowen, Elizabeth, 125 

British Board of Film Censors, 135, 

British Commercial Gas Associa- 
tion, 95, 96, 163 

British Council Films Department, 

British Film Institute, 96, 112, 161, 

Bunuel, L., 104 

Capra, F., 33, 121-2 

Cavalcanti, Alberto, 80-1, 99, 101, 
104, 107 

Central Council for Health Educa- 
tion, 163 

Central Film Library, 163 

Chaplin, Charlie, 13, 32, 33, 39, 40, 
75-7, 115 

Cinema Quarterly, 85, 89-91 

Clair, Rene, 13, 34, 63, 71, 74, 76, 
77, 164 

Cohen, Elsie, 148-9 

Cooke, Alistair, 124 

Crawford, Joan, 131 

Crosby, Bing, 129-30 

Crown Film Unit, 97, 110 

Davis, Bette, 36, 37, 69, 70 
Dietrich, Marlene, 36, 67, 69, 70 
Disney, Walt, 14, 33, 71, 74, 77-8 
Documentary hews Letter, 85, 89, 

Donat, Robert, 69, 70 
Dovzhenko, 47, 51 
Dzigan, Y., 51 

Eisenstein, S., 27, 33, 47-50, 59, 71, 

76, 84, 153, 156-8, 159, 160 
Ekk, Nikolai, 51 
Elton, Arthur, 80-2, 89, 91 
Empire Marketing Board, 81-2 


appeal to the modern public, 
11-12, 114-16 
what the public gets, 116-20 
what the public wants, 125-34 
attendance statistics, 134 
Soviet film, 13, 41-51, 153-60 
documentary, 13-14, 80-106 
theory of documentary, 89-94, 

and propaganda, 91-4, 98-104 
and the fiction film, 106-11 
publicity, 14-15, 119, 122-3 
place among the fine arts, 16-20, 

27-8,71-2, 114-16 
economics, 18, 117, 147-8 
sight predominant over sound, 

early debasement of the film, 19 
co-operative basis of its staff- 
work, 19 
technical definitions and des- 
criptions, 20, 28 
coming of sound, 52-3 
technical limitations and advan- 
tages as an art, 21-4, 29-67 
dialogue for film, 53, 58-62 
artistic use of sound, 52-67 
music for the film, 62-7 
scenarist, 31-3 

Pudovkin on the work of 
scenarist, 42-7 
director, 31-3, 38 ff. 

Pudovkin on work of director, 

Capra on subordination of 
director to producer, 121-2 
lighting, 35 

editing and montage, 37-52 
Pudovkin on editing, 38, 42-7 
Odessa-steps sequence, 47-50 
German film (pre-Nazi), 39-41 

Nazi Glm policy, 149-53 
Arnheim on film technique, 51-2, 

Spottiswoode on the use of sound, 




Film (cont.) : 

acting for the film, 67-71 
realism in the film, 71-4 (see also 

under Documentary) 
fantasy in the film, 73-80 
production and its policy, 118-22 
themes of the average film, 

moral implications of the average 

film, 138-9 
film critics, 1^3-34 
hypnosis of the lit screen, 21, 123, 

influence on fashion, 131-3, 137 
censorship, 135 

censorship of controversial 
topics, 141-7 
children in the cinema, 135-6 
adolescents in the cinema, 136-8 
social content of feature film, 106, 

film societies, 146, 163-5, ,167-71 

selection of films for, 169-71 
film in pre-Nazi France, 148-9 
instructional films, 160-3 
Film centre, 85, 98 
Flaherty, Robert, 32, 33, 38, 81, 

82-4,90, 101, 107 
Fonda, Henry, 36, 69, 70, 73 
Ford, John, 27, 33, 122 (see also 

Grapes of Wrath) 
Ford, Richard, 50, 153-6, 158 
Forsythe, Robert, 124 

Ga^bin, Jean, 70 

Garbo, Greta, 56, 67, 69, 70 

G.B. Instructional, 85, 161 

Gerasimov, S., 51 

Goebbels, Dr., 149-52 

G.P.O. and Empire Film Library, 96 

G.P.O. Film Unit, 81, 95, 97 (see 

also Crown Film Unit) 
Greene, Graham, 129-30 
Grierson, John, 15, 27, 42, 48, 65, 

71,80-91, 92,95, 99-104 
Grierson, Marion, 81 
Griffith, D. W., 12, 27, 35, 39, 40, 

41, 43, 45, 46, 107 

Handley, Tommy, 11 

Hays Office, 119, 143, 144-5 

Hemingway, Ernest, 104 

Herold, Don, 130-1 

Herring, Robert, 124 

Hitchcock, Alfred, 27, 33, 39, 59, 

Hitler, Adojf, 92 
Honegger, Arthur, 79 

Howard, Leslie, 62, 67, 69, 70 
Hulme, T. E., 71-2 

Ivens, Joris, 104 

Jacobs, Lewis, 125 
Jannings, Emil, 37, 41 
Joubert, Maurice, 63, 65, 71 
Jouvet, Louis, 36, 70 

Kinematograph Weekly, 134 
Kinothek, 62 
Korda, Alexander, 60 
Korda, Zoltan, 22 
Krauss, Werner, 40, 41 
Kuleshov, Lev, 41, 42, 47 

Lang, Fritz, 27, 33, 34, 59 
Laughton, Charles, 36, 62, 67, 69, 

70, 73 
L.C.C., 144 

Legg, Stuart, 88, 91, 148 
Leigh, Walter, 86-7 
Lejeune, C. A., 125 
Lenin, 160 

Levin, Mayer, 123-4, 127-9 
Lloyd, Harold, 73 
London Film Society, 163 
London, Kurt, 63 
Lorentz, Pare, 104-5 
Luce, Henry, 105, 117 
Lye, Len, 95 

Marx Brothers, 13, 32, 59, 71, 74-7 
Matthews, Jessie, 131-2 
Meisel, E., 63 
Mrlies, G., 74 
Menkin, A., 51 

Ministry of Information, 85, 95-9 
Montague, Ivor, 153, 156 
Moscow State School of Cinemato- 
graphy, 41 

National League of Decency, 145 

O'Connor, T. P., 141-2 

Pabst, G., 76 

Pal, Georg, 78 

Petrov, V., 51 

Powell, Dilys, 125 

Powell, Michael, 33 ' 

Pudovkin, V. I., 15, 25-6, 27, 33, 
36, 37, 39, 41, 42-7, 48, 51, 53, 
56-7, 66-V7, 69-70, 71, 107, 110, 



Raimu, 70 

Rainer, Louis%, 36 

Raisman, Y., 51 

Rank, Arthur, 148 

Rappoport, H„ 51 

Realist Film Unit, 85 

Reiniger, Lotte, 78-9 

Religious Film Societies, 163 

Robson, E. W. and M. M., 140 

Rogers, Ginger, 116 

Rotha, Paul, 15, 52, 80-5, 89, 

91-4, 125 
Rotha Productions, 85 

Santell, Alfred, 33 

Schoeni, Helen, 153, 158-9 • 

Scientific Film Society, 163 

See, 85, 89 

Shakespeare, William, 59, 115 

Shaw, George Bernard, 59 

Shearer, Norma, 69 

Shell Film Unit, 85, 89 . 

Shellmex, 95, 96 

Sight and Sound, 161 

Simon, Michel, 65 

Slater, John, 109 

Spectator Film Unit, 85 

Spice, Evelyn, 81 

Spottiswoode, Raymond, 42, 54-5 

Stalin, 160 

Strand Film Unit, 85 

Tallents, Sir Stephen, 81 
Taylor, Donald, 81 
Thorp, Margaret, 121, 144 
Tracy, Spencer, 70 *- 
Trauberg, I. Z., 51 
Tyrrell, Lord, 130, k 145 

U.F.A., 40, 41, 149-50 

Vassiliev, the Brothers, 51 
Veidt, Conrad, 40, 41 
Verity Film Unit, 85 
Vertov, D., 34, 41, 47, 51 
Vidor, King, 133 
Vigo, Jean, 33, 65 

Walton, William, 97 
Watt, Harry, 80-1, 88, 110 
Welles, Orson, 33, 67, 105 
Whitebait, William, 125 
Wiene, Richard, 40 
Workers* Film Association, 163 
World Film News, 85, 89. 
Wright, Basil, 80-2, 85-7, 89, 91, 

Since this book was written many good films have 
been released. The following titles from among 
them help to bring the list in the book up to date. 


Harry Watt: NINE MEN 

Army and RAF. Units: DESERT VICTORY 



M. Powell and E. Pressburger: LIFE AND DEATH OF 

Anthony Asquith: WE DIVE AT DAWN; THE DEMI- 


Paul Rotha Productions: WORLD OF PLENTY; POWER FOR 


Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat: MILLIONS LIKE US 





Michael Curtiz: MISSION TO MOSCOW 

Herman Shamlin: WATCH ON THE RHINE 
Frank Copra for U.S. Signals Corps: BATTLE OF BRITAIN; 

Clarence Brown: THE HUMAN COMEDY 


Alexandrov: VOLGA-VOLGA 

Mikhail Romm: LENIN IN 1918 


Alexander Zorkhi and Joseph Heifetz: BALTIC DEPUTY 


2j6 each 


Edward Sackville West 


Geoffrey Gregson 


Raymond Mortimer 


Herbert Read 


2j- each 

F. Martin Duncan 


Carl Winter 

James lower 


John Summerson 


Max beerbahm 

J. R. Norman 


Sir Eric Maclagan 

Fred Stoker